While I’m no fan of the Kardashian/Jenner social media sock puppets, this won’t be another post trashing the recent Pepsi mess. And it’s way too pat to claim the idea failed because it originated at Pepsi’s in-house agency, The Creators League (who, for some mystifying reason, eschew possessive apostrophes).
Like any produced work built on a flawed premise, the blame for this disappointment falls squarely on the agency leadership who green-lighted this inexcusably muddled and pandering mess.
From the Google trail, that appears to be PepsiCo’s Global Beverage Group President Brad Jakeman, an executive who built a reputation in the press by attacking ad agencies. In a well-publicized speech at the ANA’s none-too-subtly-monikered “Masters of Marketing” 2015 conference, he courted headlines by berating the very agencies that built Pepsi’s name recognition, perhaps as a prelude of his much-hyped launch of Pepsi’s Manhattan-based in-house content unit.
But as must be evident now, self-promoting press releases and industry speeches have little in common with the business of generating meaningful, breakthrough creative work. That task is not the province of critics; it’s the job of creatives: specifically, creative leaders with the experience to insure the work is strategic and breakthrough. And of course, never humiliating. The Creator’s League management failed at this task, not because they are an in-house agency, but because they’re not particularly good.
I actually agree with Mr. Jackman; the time’s ripe to rethink in house agencies, but that demands real thought and innovation. Like anything implemented solely from a fiscal perspective (discount airlines, knockoff electronics, the HMO system), units like his are destined to fail when your sole intention is cost cutting. In today’s saturated, hyper-distracted marketplace, a ‘content factory’ that aims to do more for less is a massive waste. They are destined to become what viral shops were to the 90’s; a fleeting specialty that inevitably folds back into a broader creative shop.
The real opportunity is to specifically design in-house agencies to deliver remarkable creative solutions within idiosyncratic corporate cultural contexts.
Corporations are unique, with unique needs and approaches. Designing a creative enterprise specifically to maximize the work’s impact within that system could prove very worthwhile. But that’s something else entirely from ‘a unit dedicated to affordably producing a high volume of content.
It might be fiscally convenient to create an agency staffed with young, affordable talent and delude yourself that, despite having no experience at creative direction, your executives will somehow know good work when they see it. But that’s akin to a murder suspect who represents themselves at trial.
They have a fool for a client.