Today, about a million or so people will pack the streets of my home town, Oakland CA, for a parade to celebrate the Golden State Warriors who last week won their 3rd National Basketball Association championship in 4 years.
This is a phenomenal achievement that has been equaled by very few teams in the history of the NBA.
The NBA has a few things in common with the ad industry. For one thing, management people and coaches are highly mobile. Steve Kerr, head coach of the Warriors, was once General Manager of the Phoenix Suns. Alvin Gentry, head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans (who the Warriors defeated in the Western Conference semi-finals) was most recently assistant coach under Steve Kerr with the Warriors. As a result of management and coaching mobility there are very few secrets in the NBA.
The systems, the data, and the tactics are all well-known to everyone and are easily interchangeable. While there are some management groups and some coaches that are certainly superior to others, by far the biggest difference between winning and losing boils down to one thing – the talent of the players on the court.
As Steve Kerr said after the Warriors’ victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers,
“We had more talent than they did, and talent wins in this league.”
This is a lesson that has been lost in the ad industry. We have become obsessed with systems, data, and tactics. If we got a peek behind the curtain, I’m sure we would find that the systems, the data, and the tactics of one agency group are substantially interchangeable with those of another. We have forgotten that what makes one organization superior to another is the talent of the players.
Imagine if Publicis had taken the $20 million it is spending on its “Marcel” AI gimmick and instead had invested it in hiring 20 or 30 of the best creative people in the world (I don’t know? What does a top creative make these days?)
Imagine the impact on the organization that this would have had. Imagine what this type of talent could have done for them.
But no. To Publicis, systems and woolly ideas about “co-creation” and “collaboration” are more important than talent. They’d rather spend $20 million to have some mediocrities in Paris be able to connect with some mediocrities in New York than spend the money to hire 20 or 30 brilliant creative people who could establish an unprecedented powerhouse of talent.
Is it any wonder that the ad industry is viewed as an industry in extremis? Any industry that values systems and processes over talent is an industry in decay.