From time to time, we find it important to question some of the basic tenets of advertising. By challenging assumptions, we push the norms – and ourselves – to provide better, fresher solutions.
One such advertising sacred cow is the notion of “car guys.” They’re ad men who have specific expertise in the automotive category. Car guys know how to shoot sheet metal at a ¾ angle. The know acronyms like APR and MSRP. They know how long it takes to go from drawing board to show room. And they understand the complicated relationship between factory and dealers.
Mind you, these industry experts are not exclusive to cars. There are “Health & Beauty” people in the cosmetic world. There are experts in the Financial, Pharma, Education and Medical categories. And because of their category expertise, these specialists all cost more. Usually 25% to 40% more.
Now, many agencies and clients take comfort in the knowledge and experience of “car guys.” After all, car guys “know the drill.” “They’ve done it before, they can do it again.” And “it’s not their first time at the rodeo.”
But, for the last 20 years, we’ve sat and studied the phenomenon of Car Guys and other so-called industry experts. And here’s what we found:
- Most great or breakthrough car campaigns have not come from “Car guys.” What’s more, they usually come from agencies far away from Detroit.
- Rarely does someone with a famous campaign in one category come up with a second great one if the same category.
- Great campaigns are very often ones that attack the category sacred cows upheld by industry experts. The seriousness of investment ads. Super models in beauty ads. Badge value of beer ads. The sex appeal of deodorant ads.
- While industry knowledge is important, the learning curves are not overwhelming. After all, this is advertising.
- So-called Industry experts have a vested interest in the status quo. The ¾ sheet metal shot. Or, the overly retouched super model. This is what they know; their bread and butter. They have a very real financial incentive to preserve, protect and promote the same ol, same ol.
It is this last point that I find most intriguing. Clients come to agencies for new and different – and yet often pay extra for the very opposite.
We do believe in what we call “voice areas.” A writer who excels at edgy humor and video game ads may not be the right fit for the private bank or jewelry brand, but may be perfect for beer or fast food or an $18,000 car.
Now, we don’t have anything against car guys. Some of my friends are car guys. We just look for people experienced in consumer insights, branding, communicating, creating – rather than doing it in any one industry.