Mars global marketer warns brands need to pay agencies ‘enough to make a very good profit’

Bruce McCollThe global chief marketing officer of Mars has said the public is simply not interested in what brands have to say, warning the industry it needs to look to the world of entertainment and be willing to fail spectacularly to create connection with consumers.

Speaking at the Australian Association of Nation Advertisers Reset conference in Sydney today, Aussie Bruce McColl said the FMCG giant was applying four rules of creative excellence to make sure that its roster of agencies, BBDO, DDB and Mediacom had the confidence and freedom to drive brands, which included paying them enough to make a profit.

He outlined them as: “(Paying agencies) subsistence rations –  we have to pay them enough to make a very good profit. I want our agencies to be able to recruit the type of talent that can provide four star advertising. But we are still fiscally responsible.

“Mandatory rules – what you do is you produce advertising that is very average.

“Layers of prison wardens – if you have 20 people approving there is no way you are going to get great advertising

“Threat of death. No way we can get the best out of our agency partners if they are under the threat of constant dismissal. If they are thinking about dismissal and mandatory rules all they are going to be thinking about is I’ll give you what you want.”

He said the other challenge was consumers themselves.

“There is no audience out there, they are not sitting there waiting for the next Pedigree ad,” McColl said.

“That sets the bar very high. How do we reach those people who are just not interested in us.”

He said Mars’ rules were that “performers perfect their craft”, working constantly to improve its message and the way it could connect with consumers.

“It has to make you laugh, it has to make you cry is has to be useful. Otherwise it is wallpaper,” he said.

He also said dissatisfaction was a key driver of great work, taking a leaf from the Beatles who, unhappy with how live performances had stalled their creative growth, went back to the studio.

“Let dissatisfaction drive your creative ambition,” McColl said. “Be curious and collaborative, understanding when we get that spark why is this working.”

As part of that, he said Mars agencies needed to be freed from the bars that could limit their relationship with the brand, not living in constant fear of being fired and not working on competition with other agencies, but freely collaborating.

Finally he said brands had to be be willing to fail.

“Fail spectacularly, fail cheap, just don’t fail safe and ignorant,” he said.

He highlighted a campaign for Wrigley’s launched two weeks ago in the US which had been created in answer to a previous, template driven effort.

The new ad, focused on a young couple in love, was not part of a campaign, a concern for the marketing team. However they backed the long-form effort and the result has been more than 100 million views and and a top five song on the US charts with Haley Rienhart.

Simon Canning


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