Why advertising needs entrepreneurs

Regardless of whether you are part of a hot-shop 17-man creative boutique, or one of a 450-man flagship office of a global agency network, the advertising business still needs more than a healthy dose of entrepreneurs – and I think the industry is forgetting that.

The challenge with this business, however large the brand name or the network, is that at the end of the day we run and act like SMEs. Small and medium sized businesses have some very different features to large corporate conglomerates mainly based around the type of people they employ and how these employees need to act on a day to day basis.

  • Good enough simply isn’t good enough: In an industry that still has it’s roots in design, we know that nothing is ever perfect and therefore there is always an improvement to be made. Whether this is in the way we package our thoughts, the creative ideas or the final product, our objective has always been to over deliver to ensure that the client is not just happy, but wowed with our skills.
  • Always searching for new opportunities: Part of always making things better is thinking about how they were done, and whether there is a different approach – particularly with the advent of the plethora of new media channels, an idea alone isn’t enough, but we need to think about how it can be executed and this brings up a great deal of options. So again we need to be constantly refining.
  • Staying at the forefront of evolution: The business is far from static, so if you are comfortably entrenched in your print production process today, there is a good chance that either the process will change to digital tomorrow, or the media will change to the iPad – one way or another you need to be ahead of the game to be ready.
  • Everyone is a finance director, strategist and creative: Just because you are an art director or in client service, our ‘boxes’ are much more open as we need to be managing the finances (a service based industry), the team skillset and the overall strategy of the client, whilst at the same time delivering on the brief.

So how does this overlap with the entrepreneurial skillset?

Entrepreneurs are passionate, they have a calling to a business, industry, sector or product and it is their life – we have to accept that this never has, and never will be, a pure 9-5 job – and above this you also need to be someone who crosses a range of skill groups, from finance to strategy and creativity, not an expert in them all but knowledgeable enough to understand what is going on. Some of the best performers in the business are those who have had access to a number of different jobs, crossing from media to creative or planning to production. What is happening today? We seem to be hoping that the industrial revolution has come to advertising and communications, that the integration of technology into our business has meant that we can fire of an email and everything will be taken care of – unfortunately, exactly the opposite is happening; increasing use of technology has done nothing but complexify our business by creating more options at the top end (media channels) and tighter margin at the bottom end (mass access to production tools) and so more than ever we need savvy business entrepreneurs to drive the industry into the future.

What does this mean for HR in advertising as we move into our own industrial revolution?

So when you look around your offices and you see those employees who are doing their own job (the one their aged title still refers to) and also reaching out to get involved with other pieces of the business, whether this is creative to strategy or client service to HR – here is where you need to focus, these are the future of the organisation. And when you have a great art director who does nothing but art… well at some point difficult decisions have to be made.

By Lex Bradshaw-Zanger

A digital native and integrated brand marketer with a passion for marketing-communications and product design, Lex has a truly international outlook and experience, having worked both in major marketing agencies and client-side brands across Europe, the US and the Middle East.


  1. I completely agree with your thoughts. It’s interesting to think how the industry is changing, but in a way, hasn’t changed since the 60’s. It seems like the big money in advertising still works off of the big 4 media types and all centers on the holy 15%.

    What do you see the new advertising world entrepreneurs delving in? It seems we’re at a turning point with the creation of social media and other forms of “free” advertising. I own a marketing firm that does this type of work, and it still seems like it’s not yet in vogue enough to catch attention of the big players.

    1. I think entrepreneurs in advertising are going to have to work very hard to make changes from the inside – this means that not all will succeed and only some of the ‘big’ agencies will make it to the next stage of evolution.
      What is clear is that we need both these entrepreneurs on the inside and top management to be completely aligned on what the future looks like – it isn’t enough to simply acquire a digital agency or to drop in a few key skills.
      Those that succeed have great potential, the other advertising entrepreneurs are likely to look outside for new models, models that are very different from what we see today – check out http://www.agencyfuture.com to see what some of these look like.

  2. Great point. That’s an awesome project and I’m looking forward to the growing revolution and the changes that need to be made. It’s an interesting thought that there needs to be more entrepreneurs in marketing, both high level and low. It always seems that it takes that style of thinking to build clients’ business. Looking forward to your other blog posts on this topic! Thanks!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *