I am sick. According to my own self-pitiful view today, I’m very sick actually. Well, that’s probably not entirely true, but I’ve felt tired and lethargic lately. More than usual that is. And I’ve just found out from my blood test results that I have something called Mycoplasma: a kind of bacteria, for which my doctor has given me antibiotics after scolding me for not seeing her sooner. The good news is that it isn’t serious and that the antibiotics will take care of it. So at least in theory, I should live.
I’ve deliberately stayed away from seeing a doctor for weeks since I find so many of them are preconditioned to respond to any condition or symptoms by prescribing medicine, often antibiotics. And why wouldn’t they? After all, they make money from the medicine they sell to us and also expect most patients, people like you and me, to want them to provide an immediate solution to the problem/condition. The patient comes to the doctor with a problem and this problem is expected to be solved by the doctor; it’s an action that calls for a reaction. Otherwise, s/he is not doing his/her job properly and patients go to another doctor.
In many cases when the problem is a viral infection – commonly known as a cold – the antibiotics which are routinely prescribed by physicians are completely ineffective. Patients would actually be better off not taking them. Doctors simply shouldn’t prescribe them in a lot of cases. A simple blood test is all it takes to be certain. And for a cough or a sore throat, I’m willing to wait the 2-3 days it takes to get the results.
Aside from the financial aspect involved, it’s not really that hard to understand why the situation I’ve described has perpetuated itself. This got me thinking about the stereotypical response most agencies see their role and how they typically respond to client briefs. The similarities are strinking. Agencies do what they’re comfortable with, They do what they think the client is comfortable with and expects. [They’ll tell you otherwise though.] So they start thinking about the solution first. It’s often called Print, TV, Radio and maybe Outdoor. These are generally regarded and referred to as the omnipotent cures to all business issues. This is the problem.
To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Agencies forget or choose not to take that blood test and send it off for analysis; they forget to approach briefs with purity, open minds, without preconceived ideas of what the results with show and what the solution should be. This is one of the key issues agencies have to get a grip on to stay relevant; to be able to add value to business. Getting digital fully integrated into the mix will help, but it’s not the holy grail to success. The industry needs to think beyond compartmentalised channels and disciplines. The starting point has to be to understand clients’ business problems from the viewpoint of people’s hearts and minds.
But until the industry, which is supposedly expected to understand people and how to connect with them better than any management consultancy make the effort of running those blood tests and understanding the real issues, the industry will prescribe more pills to clients without really knowing if they have any effect or not. This in itself has become a disease. When clients come to us asking for our help, we must be ready not to give them what they want or expect, but what is best for their businesses.
This sometimes means ditching those pills I’ve been on about for something seemingly odd and erratic. The only way we’re ever going to be able to do this is by breaking our own mould.
Another thing that crossed my mind earlier was how much easier life would be for us advertising people if people/clients trusted us as blindly as they trust doctors. Imagine that!