These are tough times for generalists.Â Whatever you want doing – a BMW serviced, a hernia fixed, a party planned, a suit made, an ad written – your first thought is that you’ll need someone who specialises in that sort of thing.
And, truth to tell, the evidence says you’re right.Â Cars with specialist dealer service records are worth more than those without. The success rate of specialist surgeons is higher than the generalist species.Â And you don’t even want to think about what can happen when someone more used to children’s birthday parties and ruby weddings takes on the task of organising your stag night.Â Or vice versa.
Specialists rule.Â But that’s not the end of the story.Â The question now is, what kind of specialist?Â Say that your child breaks an arm.Â Do you want a specialist in children, or in arms, or in broken bones?Â Or maybe in the subtle art of reassuring anxious parents?Â Or maybe more than one of the above?
Hopefully you can see where I’m going with this.Â Â Our competitors are “specialist” agencies.Â The hugeÂ majorityÂ don’t specialise in working for a particular kind of client, but they do “specialise” in a particular kind of marketing or communications technique – brand development, direct marketing, TV advertising, digital communications.Â Â We, on the other hand,Â do all of these things, but we are still “specialists” of a different kind:Â like a handful of others, we work only for clients in financial services.
YouÂ can see theÂ way the landscape looks through clients’ eyes.Â Â When they want, say, a TV advertising campaign, 99 agencies out of 100 (well, maybe 98) encourage them to choose an agency that specialises in TV advertising.Â We, and one or two others, encourage them to choose an agency that specialises in financial services.Â Unsurprisingly, most clients go with the majority view.
As a result, these days, few if any major TV accounts are still held by specialist (financial) agencies. Among the last few to shift across into the specialistÂ (TV advertising) agencies were The Gate’s Scottish Widows, and our MORE TH>N.Â It looks as if the war is over.Â We’re the wrong kind of specialist.Â We lost.
Except.Â Look at the evidence another way, and you’ll find that Scottish Widows and MORE TH>N are among the very most successful financial TV advertising case histories of recent years, whileÂ many of the most mind-blowingly useless financial campaigns come from some of the most admired mainstream ad agencies (with BBH’s current Barclays “Now There’s A Thought” campaign close to the top of the list).Â
It’s frustrating.Â The truth is, most of us know how to do TV advertising – it’s doing it in the abstract, intangible, heavily-regulated, low-consumer-interest category of financial services that’s hard.
Oh well.Â When new people arrived at MORE TH>N and decided they wanted to move the account to the other kind of specialist, they appointed what was then and still is by far London’s most highly-regarded (and indeed probably best) “specialist” TV advertising agency, Fallon (Sony Bravia, Skoda, Cadbury’s gorilla).Â So even if we are the wrong kind of specialist,Â there’s some satisfaction to be gainedÂ from the thought that our MOREÂ TH>N work (with Lucky the dog) was about 10,000 times better than the stuff they’re doing now.