Failure to merge
He also feels that, too often, neither side has a full view of what ‘brand’ means to the client. “A client will speak to an advertising agency that’s well versed in brands,” he explains, “and broadly what they’ll talk about is brand advertising. But when they talk to a design agency that’s well versed in brands, they’ll talk about the broader world of branding.”
To square the circle, so-called ‘hybrid’ agencies attempt to merge the two disciplines. But in most cases, they don’t do so effectively.
“For instance, any advertising person who’s ever looked at a brand consultancy case study and seen a 48-sheet will tell you the ads are always universally hopeless,” notes Chris. “Likewise, any branding professional who listens to an ad agency’s version of brand strategy will also see the limitations of it, because it’s entirely focused on the advertising medium. At its worst, there’s that sense of: ‘The answer is a 30-second telly ad; what was the problem?’”
What’s the way forward? Ultimately, Chris believes that rather than fighting each other, advertising and branding need to start learning from each other.
“For example, ad agencies have gotten much better in the last decade at working quickly,” he notes. “And there’s a deficiency on the branding side that this can really help with. Yes, brands need to operate on a much longer timeframe than advertising… but I don’t think that means the process has to lengthen.”
Chris adds that “advertising planning has a certain level of rigor when it comes to market dynamics, competitive pressure, differentiation and distinctiveness. And broadly, there is a greater emphasis in advertising philosophy around the rigors of effectiveness and return on marketing investment.”
On the advertising side, meanwhile, there are also big deficits. “They include the tendency to understand brands purely as a function of communication,” says Chris. “Here’s where branding can teach advertising the wider truth about what a brand does; such as acting as an internal leadership tool, or as galvaniser of organisations. Branding experts also have a deeper understanding of how brand audiences are far broader than advertising agencies often consider.”
All this isn’t just a matter of theory. “At Borne, we put this philosophy into practice,” he says. “We’re actively bringing these disciplines together, and recognising the opportunities to cherry-pick the best of both, into a singular service. That means we can offer advertising-flavoured strategy and branding-flavoured advertising.”
That can be of enormous benefit to clients. “Because those who can’t afford to invest in a top-flight brand consultancy and a top-flight advertising agency,” he explains. “Can now afford to invest in a top-flight partner that delivers both.”