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02/10/2010 Honest Marketing

I spoke with Walter Naeslund yesterday. I've been following him on Twitter and found myself intrigued with his new agency Honesty. I wanted to find out how a marketing/advertising agency could call itself honest with a straight face. According to a Gallup poll in 2008, advertising agencies score just slightly higher in Honesty and Ethics compared with stockbrokers and congressmen.  It's one of the least trusted professions.

So how will Walter and crew be different? A core of what they offer seems pretty standard: Finding the basic story and driver behind a product and service and amplifying it. Perhaps a difference is that if there is no great or relevant story behind a product, they won't try and make one up, they'll change the product. One of the more interesting things with Honesty is that they have people who know how to work on product development. That's certainly a difference between the traditional places.

It seems, with Honesty's focus on bringing digital and metrics to the table first, rather than last, that the real opportunity is the type of people in this new Swedish group. It's a collection of hybrids. Walter has put together a team, each of whom is fluent in several disciplines, like SEO and PR, or product development and copywriting, brand and game theory.

Maybe having hybrids keeps you more honest. It probably means people don't lock themselves into their silos so easily and that they are more open to new things.

The biggest challenge, it seems, is educating clients. Taking the time to explain how Honesty works and having a compulsion to tie everything back to measurable goals means changing the way corporate marketers are used to working.

It was refreshing to hear Walter talk about what he's up to. The business has only been in existence since October, and they've yet to come up against a situation they had to walk away from to keep their principles. I'm sure it will happen, or at least I hope it does.

It's hard being honest. And harder when you're marketing for someone else. In any case, this is one group worth keeping your eye on. You can follow the adventure through Walter's blog. One thing is for sure, though: We need as much honesty as we can in this industry.

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