Carlos Sanz de Andino

A column by Carlos Sanz de Andino for Anuncios Magazine

Scopen recently presented its always interesting agency report, and as so often happens, we had a wide-ranging chat. And as we chatted, they shared with us a fact that not only surprised me, but shocked me. It turns out that according to their records, Spain is the second country in the world after Colombia where agencies are the worst paid by advertisers. Next to last in the queue. The third world of advertising. Nearly the rearguard. In the relegation zone, fighting to stay in the league every match day.

We already felt that it is getting ever harder to make our work count, and even to charge for things that are the essence of our business, like creativity. But it is one thing to have that feeling and quite another to be hit with the raw data: the worst on the planet, second only to Colombia. After a few moments of sympathy for our Colombian colleagues, you have to wonder why. How is that that respect for our profession has fallen so very low? Why don’t advertisers have a higher opinion of our contribution to their business? Why are they willing to pay consultants or media, but not their agencies?

One explanation might be that advertising no longer provides measurable value to brands: ideas no longer sell, strategies no longer convince, creativity no longer seduces… The business has mutated and everything is for sale. But my experience, which is by no means limited, stops me from believing that. And to back me up, I was lucky enough to be on the jury of the latest Eficacia Awards, and I have seen, with tons of data, how – for yet another year – strategy and creativity still add zeroes to the bottom line.

Perhaps the reason is that the procurement function in all the country’s public and private advertisers have conspired to push pricing right to the end of the plank, just one step from falling into the jaws of the circling sharks. But really, for me, a plot like would be just too complicated to organise. It’s true it’s an uneven match and purchasing managers almost always wield the bigger sword, but I think that’s more consequence than cause. Perhaps the explanation can be found in the industry’s traditional, distressing lack of solidarity. Repeated failed initiatives have forever left us in a weak position, unlike other collectives like production companies and broadcasters, not to mention consultants and lawyers. Price should be part of competition, but only up to a point. As a one-off, it’s easy to lower the price, but putting it back up is all but impossible. When the price is pushed down and down, advertisers get used to it and place little value on our work. Why should they, if we don’t demonstrate that value to them? In the end, we break ranks and it’s every agency for itself. And everyone loses. Or maybe there’s no single reason, perhaps it’s just a ragbag of reasons. A series of catastrophic misfortunes that have sent us snaking down to the back of the world’s pay queue… and if we carry on like this, don’t be surprised if the Colombians come out ahead of us in the next survey.

Many, many years ago, I remember going to the cinema on Calle Fuencarral and on the way out after the film there would be a little old lady who in a trembling voice hawked: Love stories for five bob! Love stories for five bob! She became a much-loved figure in La Villa, and people still tell stories about that old woman who, like Andersen’s matchstick seller, sold jokes and poems written out by hand on small crumpled pieces of paper every night. Until one day she just stopped being there. And I wonder if we, the much-loved advertising creatives, will also end up selling our love stories for five, four, three bob… until one day we too fade into insignificance and nobody knows what could possibly have happened to us.