Ad agencies close to worthless?

I'm a big gamer. All I lack is any time to play the games! There's been a slew of high profile releases in recent months but Portal 2 will be a big one. Portal is neither a pretend-to-be-in-the-army shooter or a pretend-to-be-a-footballer shooter but a darkly humorous puzzle solving masterpiece. A classic geek hit. There's every reason to believe that Portal 2 will be just as imaginative and intelligent.

If you're producing imaginative and intelligent creative assets like Portal 2 do you need a creative ad agency to then come along and make a TV ad for you? If you're Valve's marketing VP Doug Lombardi then the answer is no.

Valve, the producers of Portal 2, moaned about unoriginal ideas, late meetings and used the phrase "pretty close to worthless" while discussing creative agencies with trade press MVC.

Lombardi said;

“We’ve had many creative kick-off meetings with agencies over the years, and you’d be shocked by the treatments that have come back. Copycat treatments. Cliché treatments. Treatments that reveal the agency wasn’t listening in the initial meeting.

“With the Portal 2 ad, we playtested it and were able to make changes during production. With an agency, those types of tests are too often left to a post-mortem – at which point, the value of those realisations is pretty close to worthless.”

The TV ad is out an on YouTube so you can check it out for yourself.

Portal 2 will be pushed out by EA who know a thing or two about game promotion. Aside from the creative aspect of the ad I imagine there's a whole business of planning and buying to get through which either Valve or EA might well have brought an agency on to handle. With my digital agency hat on; I hope to see some good digital marketing for the game such as some video distribution and a real effort to encourage gamers to pre-order.

Are Valve right?

I think so.

It's hard to imagine anyone other than Valve producing the style of TV ad that we see above - and it would surely have been redundant for a creative agency just to copy their style.

Valve's almost unique though. Most companies will need creative support from agencies. This doesn't mean there's no future in creative agencies it just means, sadly, that the chances of we agency folk getting to work with Valve are diminished.

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