By Marcus Honesta.
It was Pope Gregory I who is credited with compiling the first definitive list of seven deadly sins around the year 600AD. However lists of deadly sins had existed in stories and folk law for many years before. They were later referred to by Geoffrey Chaucer in “The Canterbury Tales” a collection of 24 stories written between the years 1387 and 1400 that run to over 17,000 lines. The tales (mostly written in verse, although some are in prose) are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Why are they relevant in 2017? Because the behaviour of certain elements of our 21st century multi media world are increasingly, adversely affecting us all.
The deadly sins as they currently stand are considered to be lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.
Advertising Agencies are amongst the most ardent proponents.
Lust, (Latin, “luxuria”), an intense longing, lust can mean simply desire in general; thus, lust for money, power, and other things is immoral. In accordance with the words of Henry Edward, the impurity of lust transforms one into “a slave of the devils”.
A recently released document (9th July 2017) “ANA Production Transparency in US Advertising Market” stated:
“An executive producer at a film editing company told K2 about another example from 2016 of a producer from a different creative agency asking the company to submit a check bid. According to the source, the agency producer said that he was under pressure from agency management to bring the business in-house and that he wanted to be able to show the advertiser, a U.S.-based packaged goods company, that the in-house facility offered a better price than a rival bid from an independent company. “I need the paperwork,” the agency producer told the lm-editing company, according to the source. The source told K2 that they agreed to submit a check bid because their company relies so heavily on agencies for business and does not wish to antagonise them. “You never want to appear contentious with [agency] producers in any capacity,” the source said”.
“According to sources interviewed by K2, some creative agencies are increasingly directing post-production projects to affiliated companies within the same agency holding companies. Sources told K2 of a bidding process that suggested agency self-dealing. Specifically, six producers/editors from four separate, independent post-production companies reported firsthand accounts of agency producers asking them to submit a so-called “check bid” on a project that was pre-determined by the agency to go in-house. In these scenarios, the post-production companies were urged to in ate the price they would otherwise quote on a bid. Ostensibly, this enabled the agency producer to create a paper trail that justified to the advertiser its decision to award the project to an in-house facility, which provided a rival bid at a lower price”.
This means of doing business by certain agencies throughout their global networks, demanding that their internal production / post / music and VFX houses are used by clients is surely a demonstration of a lust for power, control and profits?
Gluttony (Latin, gulttire) is the over indulgence and over consumption of anything to the point of waste. The word derives from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down, swallow or indulge in.
Many agencies are consumed by new business “activity”. They call it a “numbers game”. Unfortunately new business often takes priority over existing business which leads to a client being told the agency needs more time to deliver a new campaign. Most agencies tend to pitch as much as they can in the hope that the business coming in the front door is greater than the business disappearing out the backdoor. If that isn’t gluttony I don’t know what is. Agencies have had their compensation models destroyed by it as their propensity for growth has caused dissatisfied existing clients to call in the consultants and create entire gumshoe departments called “procurement”.
Additionally, the Agency practice of using time sheets to charge internal costs to jobs ads to the gluttony as employees are encouraged to allocate as many hours as possible to help prop up their flawed business model.
Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity, or covetousness is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of desire. It is applied to an artificial, rapacious desire and the pursuit of material possessions. In an effort to secure super profits and keep their Leviathan’s afloat agencies have become self-serving and rarely think of their client’s best interests or needs.
Sloth (Latin, tristitia, (“without care”) refers to a peculiar jumble of notions, dating from antiquity and including mental, spiritual, pathological, and physical states. It may be defined as absence of interest or habitual disinclination to exertion.
The lazy work ethic employed by today’s agencies is sloth at its most pure defination. Taking 14-16 weeks to write a simple retail television commercial as I have seen some do, is just not on. If it was an isolated incident there might be some excuse but it happens time after to time. I have seen clients brief their agency 3 months in advance only to be presented with an idea so late and close to on air material deadlines they are not accorded any opportunity for effective input. Should they challenge the work, they are told, they risk missing their airdates.
Wrath (Latin, ira) can be defined as uncontrolled feelings of anger, rage, and even hatred. Wrath often reveals itself in the wish to seek vengeance. In its purest form, wrath presents with injury, violence, and hate.
Question their creative, production direction or costs and agencies unleash the dogs of war. I have seen instances where they maliciously set out to destroy people who do not follow the party line.
Envy (Latin, invidia), like greed and lust envy is characterised by an insatiable desire. It can be described as a sad or resentful covetousness towards the traits or possessions of others. It arises from vainglory and severs a man, woman or organisation from their community.
Agencies tend to prosecute a bloody-minded culture of criticism towards all those who are their competitors, their critics or those who hold contrary views.
Pride (Latin, superbia) The negative version of pride is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins: the perversion of the faculties that make humans more like God, dignity and holiness. It is also thought to be the source of the other capital sins. Also known as hubris (from ancient Greek ὕβρις), or futility, it is identified as dangerously corrupt selfishness, the putting of one’s own desires, urges, wants, and whims before the welfare of all other.
Agencies dismissive contempt of criticism or input is the very essence of pride. They hold a superiority complex that excludes any reasonable debate. Question their costing’s or production recommendations and you are consigned to being a fool, out of touch with the modern agenda or commercial reality. Agencies bully clients into poor choices and threaten them with missed deadlines if they ignore their recommendations.
There’s a fine line between confidence and pride. Agencies often demand that their people “take pride” in their work. This is a strength that is shadowed with weakness. Examples are the ridiculously self-important and self-promotional case studies that appear on agency web sites. Not only do they reveal strategies to their clients’ competitors, they often make it seem like their clients couldn’t succeed without them.
They would have you believe they have some special secret that other agencies do not.
Another example is the way they put idiotic TM’s on processes that are pretty much self-evident and use fancy words when simple ones will do. Agencies don’t appear humble, even if their people are.
Don’t get me wrong not all Agencies commit every sin all the time, (with the exception of one or two). But most are so arrogant they forget what they are in business for, that is to sell their clients products and/or services in the most cost efficient and timely manner possible. It should not be about creating something to win awards, or bolster their creative portfolio at the cost of the brand. It should be about working for the paying client to produce effective advertising and marketing.
Let Mahatma Gandhi have the last word on the seven deadly sins: