The State of the Industry: Mike Hughes, The Martin Agency

The State of the Industry, is a new column where Suzanne Sease speaks with advertising industry professionals and influencers to discuss what’s happening and where we’re headed.

I had the honor of having Mike Hughes as my supervisor while I was at The Martin Agency. The Martin Agency was voted the US Agency of the Year in 2010 and is known for their work for Wal-mart, Geico, Discover Card, Hanes, Moen and Miscrosoft. Mike was inducted in to The One Club Creative Hall of Fame in 2010, a prestigious group that includes David Ogilvy, Jay Chiat, Tom McElligott, Hal Riney, Dan Wieden, David Bernbach to name a few of the greats. It was such a pleasure to work with such a creative mind and you can see that in his answers.

Suzanne: I have asked the question before “Is print dead” and I know most of us will always love the tangible print, if so what is realistically the future of the still image? According to a 2011 Advertising forecast from Mediabrands, part of Interpublic Group: Over the next five years, magazine advertising will decline in each of the world’s 10 largest markets for magazines, with the exception of Brazil and Russia.
Mike: Magazines and newspapers will continue to morph in the years ahead. If personal printers take off, there might even be a resurgence of print edition customized for the reader. Two years ago, I might have said that the decline in print editions will be very steep; now I’m not so sure.

What are your thoughts on Ambient media and do you see this taking off in the States as it has in other countries?
The lines between types of media (OOH, print, broadcast, digital, earned, paid, audio, video, old, new, etc.) have been erased. Moving images can appear in books. Stills can be riveting on digital. Sights, sounds, signals and even smells can emanate from outdoor. Hopefully, the borderlines between countries will also become less thick. Certainly media
opportunities developed in one part of the world will soon emigrate to every other part.

When I go to www.adsoftheworld.com most of the print mediums that are featured are from outside the United States? Are we being too safe?
I suspect that we’re not caring enough.

Are clients pulling us back?
No. (A great agency never blames its clients.) I’m betting we’re not inspiring our clients enough with the print work we’re doing.

Do you think our buying society is educated and the “you tube” and reality shows mentality verses the appreciation of quality creative advertising?
If there’s anything the world learned from Steve Jobs, it’s this: society loves quality when it’s relevant and helpful and cool.

What are your thoughts on trying to make a product become a viral sensation? Do you think this is the future or will it phase out?
The language has changed over the years, but the goal of advertising has always been to help good products “go viral.” That won’t change. (Obviously, “going viral” isn’t limited to online connectivity.)

Should photographers and illustrators learn the motion medium?
Most should.

What advice would you give someone who only does print (still) work?
It’s more important than ever that whatever you do, you have to have an advantage over your competitors. The best way to do that, of course, is to be BETTER than your competitors.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.

Suzanne Sease

There Are 10 Comments On This Article.

  1. Mike makes a great point (one of many) that as artists and creative thinkers we need to continue to inspire our clients so they will back our creations. I encourage the photographers I work with to think vertically and shoot what they want to see out there.. not replicate what already is.
    P.S. The Martin Agency commercial teams are hysterical!

  2. A few thoughts.

    The ads site is cool (Archive like). If the viewer could select specific media categorically for each country, the breakdown would be faster. Most probably the amount of advertising done by other countries in total is larger than that done in the USA. The emerging consumer sectors in developing countries over the last few decades is huge. More profit is generated by theses markets now outside the US. So comparing US print to the entire rest of the world may not provide reasonable data.

    Lol, of course the client is always right :)
    But really, how often does the client shelve or pan ideas, or meddle in the creative process? (To be fair, how often is the creative art relevant to the perceived consumer, and not just really cool to the agency folk?). I have trouble with the idea that “we are not inspiring our clients enough”. The advertising world is connected internationally. There is a constant exchange (adsoftheworld). If the ad agencies in America aren’t “inspiring”, is it the client or the agency? We know the agency has access to imaging producers WW. Nadav Kander can shoot in London one week, Beijing another week, and NYC the week after.

    There is a fairly common method used by large and boutique agencies in developing countries (I’ve seen it less used in the US, but it is used here as well). The goal is to create awards for ads – not agency/portfolio pieces, but actual ads. The way it is done is to use smaller clients who have tighter budgets. Give the client a really great deal on advertising services (high value/low cost) in exchange for creative freedom on the agency side. The advertising product is a hip ‘of the moment ‘ piece or campaign which speaks in current agency vernacular. The judges for these awards come from the advertising/communications world – it is essential to speak their language.
    Another question is how well these ads actually perform for clients – outside of the award quotient.

    I’ve been in CDs offices in other countries and seen this first hand. Many of these offices have white boards up with the top half dozen agencies listed by name with number of awards to date. I’ve had ADs pitch me on shooting some of these ads for the opportunity to get award winning tears on the condition: keep the total budget lean. I believe this technique may have started in Asia, but ADs often transfer to other international offices using their learned talents in the next country: HK>Jakarta>Buenos Aires>NYC.

    This is a great addition to APE, but is it a one way street, or do you plan to dialog?
    I asked some difficult, but not rhetorical questions in the first SOTI thread with no response. Am also surprised there are not more comments to these threads.

    • Suzanne Sease

      I answered your questions. Sorry I am VERY busy working with clients while trying to reach out and help the industry. The people who filled these out for me are VERY busy and did this as a favor for me- they are NOT going to get into some type of dialogue with you.

      Ads of the World- top bar- you can select your media, region, country and industry. I have found that it likes to default back to general. I think seeing all media is better because then you see TV with still images, ambient with stills and even on-line. Still is being used in ways that have never had before- you must educate yourself on all the venues to stay in business.

      As far as your comment about the foreign markets is going to be answered by a later interview with a former Saatchi exec. but knowing you, don’t think you are going to like the answer! I will prepare myself for your lashing!!

  3. Suzanne – Thank you for the response.

    We are all busy. Frequently people in these threads do interact, it’s a good way to fully understand the dynamics of an industry which is larger than any one of us.

    I tried using that bar on ads of the world. Selecting print then country and vice versa. Seemed to work once or twice then not at all. Still an interesting site.

    Looking forward to future threads. I’m not lashing. It’s not personal. Facts are facts. We can accept them, or not. Either way, it rarely changes the fact.

    Even though I might create images which are used for “ambient’ media, when I encounter it in my personal life (at a urinal, pumping gas, in line at a check out stand) my first most immediate thought: “Where is the exit?!!!”. My second (darker) thoughts involve a hammer or can of spray paint – though I would not actually go that far we can still imagine :)

  4. I would like to hear what an agency or two thinks about Bob’s remarks, is it just about the awards, or is it really about the goal of meeting the clients needs by getting the ROI on the ad. Or is it a bit of both. Truth is relative to it’s presenter. I think the US tends to stay inside the box although they have expanded it’s size.

  5. @Ed: In regards to Bob’s comments about creating ads just for awards, I used to work as an ad creative and the only way to earn a decent salary as a creative was to have “creative” work in your portfolio and win awards but most of the client work that pays the bills at an agency is not something you would want to put in your portfolio. If you expect to find another job once you get laid off or to make a name for yourself in the industry, the easiest way is to make cool fake ads and give them to anyone that will be willing to run them then submit them to the awards shows and CA.

    The history of the industry is full of “creative shops” who do award-winning work for a few years but they end up going out of business. I don’t think those places are meant to last because they value creative first, client service second. Then you have the big global agencies who have been around 100+ years cranking out mediocre work for large clients year in and year out.