Embrace The Agency Within

Is Bonehook an advertising agency? Yes, of course. Which begs the question, why do we call ourselves a marketing services company? My simple answer is advertising is but one of the marketing services that we offer; hence, “marketing services company” is a more accurate description.

This topic was recently addressed on Ad Age by Mike Wolfsohn, chief creative officer at High Wide & Handsome, an “uncommonly loyal marketing agency” located in Venice, CA.

These days, it seems the fastest way to insult someone in the marketing communications business is to call his or her company an advertising agency. Apparently that moniker is reserved for “old-school,” “traditional” and “dinosaur” shops that set type by hand and make TV commercials that end with a toll-free number. (Full-disclosure: we call our company a “marketing agency” but don’t go ballistic if we’re called an ad agency.)

Simply put, you shouldn’t need a PowerPoint presentation, a video or even a paragraph to explain what business you’re in. Car dealerships wouldn’t rebrand as “Modern Conveyance Distributors” in an attempt to distance themselves from the antiquated perceptions of the car-buying experience, and neither should agencies redub themselves as a “Concept Cultivation Company” or something equally unclear.

Wikipedia says, “An ad agency is independent from the client and provides an outside point of view to the effort of selling the client’s products or services.” That makes sense. If you’re an agent, you work for an agency.

Small agencies like Bonehook used to be called boutiques. Today, the word “studio” is often used in its place. Here in Portland we have Jelly Helm Studio, to point to one such notable entity. I believe “studio” is meant to convey the limited scope of services offered. A brand studio isn’t going to have a media department or a planning department, for instance. Yet, I hesitate to use the “studio” word myself, because there is no limit to what we will do to find the right answer for a client. A great example of this is the interior design project we took on last year for Danville Children’s Medical Center. I’m a writer, brand strategist and creative director. What do I know about interior design? Answer: I know that my client needs it, and that I’m ready and able to provide it (by finding the right interior designer for the job).

Leave a comment