Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Virtual Ad Agencies Next for Golem Culture?

The Prague Golem figure—symbol for soul-less online agencies. Zimmerman gets a three-golem rating in my book. SOUL-less X 3.

Zimmerman President Pat Patregnani and Michael Gelfano, VP of retail technologies, demonstrate how Pick-N-Click works.

The virtual agency! It was a term that was floated often when I worked at Euro RSCG 4D, but it mainly described our partnering with multiple talent sources and sister agencies (is this term sexist?). The idea of an actual agency with no bricks and mortar office space but run online solely is an interesting idea.
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There is one agency, Zimmerman and Partners Advertising, that I found. They have set up a virtual extension of themselves aimed at serving a big part of their clientele and vertical market—car dealers. They call it Pick-N-Click, and it apparently enables auto dealers to create whatever they need online.

"It took 66 software code writers, $3 million up front and input from a number of talented people to perfect the virtual agency," said Michael Gelfano, Zimmerman's VP of retail technologies.

Pick-N-Click enables a business owner or manager to create ads for print, radio and TV from pull-down menus with 40,000 selections. Licensing costs to use Pick-N-Click range from $799 to $1,999 a month, depending on how many medias a company uses.

"We did $2 billion in billings last year, with about 860 employees and with a pragmatic focus on performance for our clients, so Pick-N-Click fits right in with our strategy," said Michael Goldberg, chief marketing officer for the Fort Lauderdale-based agency.

The agency specializes in automotive accounts, so its officials said they chose to introduce the virtual agency to that niche first.

The website seems to cover it all in the navigation buttons, Strategy, Creative and Inventory. Wow, what more could you want? Passion? Intelligence? Brilliance?

While I think this is all very creative and forward thinking, I have always wondered why auto ads are so god-awful, and now I know why. They really aren't about high concept, breakthrough creative at least on the dealer level.

The reason I got into advertising was to participate in that high concept, breakneck pace, intellectually stimulating environment. Although I did work on the Saab Auto account for a while (and it was a pleasant experience). I regret now that I gave most of my creative energies to sell freaking credit cards for all those years. It all seems so, unfulilling, so golem like, soul-less and lucrative.

But I digress my friends—so this is just one virtual business model, Zimmerman is a large agency or rather part of the large conglomerate Omnicom. The upfront costs of this were, I am sure, a result of detailed study by many marketing wonks (i.e. account types). The creatives were most likely only brought in to execute the cosmetics, and I am sure they never were consulted on the actual planning of the user interface. Excuse me, am I sounding a bit arch?

The dream of setting up templates into which content can be placed has been trotted out repeatedly. In fact by every single general manager I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. The idea too, that you can "save" unused creative concepts has been around from the days when I kept a flat file full of them—beautifully realized tissue comps to be saved for the next time.

Yeah right! How many times did the perfect storm of product, strategy and client taste ever present itself again.

Anyway, I will be doing more investigation into this virtual agency concept because I think you can do it with out it seeming like a Golem-like creation from the soul-less inanimate material from which all Golem are wrought. As I do this investigation I will be assigning online agencies a Golem rating.

Zimmerman gets Sharky's 3 Golem rating,

4 Golems is the worst!

Stay tuned, leave a comment! G.

© Copyright 2009 Guy Arceneaux All rights reserved


  1. It's just like when computers, Quark, and laser printers showed up. Everybody thinks they're a designer just because they have the tools.

  2. Enjoy your blog.So kind.Good luck!
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    We invite you to come to our blog. You are welcome any time.

  3. I deal with quite a few car dealers and I will say that the reason they remian alive and somewhat successful is that they "leave the driving to us"... pun intended. "Car ads Suck" was a little all-consuming, but somewhat accurate, but knowing that the agencies around the country are littered with great, creative campaigns killed by Dealer General Sales Managers who "know what OUR customers will react to..." Most of those guys are waving bye-bye now and won't be around to use this futile tool.

  4. Most ad agencies are so soulless and ineffective, this approach can't really be much worse!

  5. Good luck on your investigation and I hope to hear from you soon.

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