The service-based economy (one that produces intangibles) is growing at a rate that far outpaces the goods-based one. As you become specialized in something, others are more likely to pay you for servicing them with that "special" thing you do so that they don't have to do it themselves. Sounds dirty, but you know what I mean.
Examples of service industry businesses are dry cleaners, carpet cleaners and advertising agencies.
Why advertising agencies?
Advertising is a Hybrid
At best, advertising is a hybrid of the service- and goods-based industries. While we serve and help clients, we also manufacture print ads, TV commercials, radio spots, logos, brand guidelines, PR placement, positive word of mouth, new client product ideas, etc., etc., etc.. Many of these things are tangible; some of them half tangible—while you might not be able to hold a a funny TV spot in your hand, it gets passed around faster than the flu.
So, why should you care about the difference in definition?
A service company does what they're told. They take orders. Your local pizza place prepares and produces a finished pie that matches what tastebuds prefer. If the pizza-maker goes off script, you won't be happy.
This approach is similar to trying to match creative output to a client's desires. It's our job to get them as closely aligned as possible.
A goods-based company predicts and produces what they think their target customer/user will want. In some cases, like the iPod, people don't know they want it until they see it. This is the perfect way to describe the most engaging, effective creative advertising: forward thinking and unpredictable.
Don't Do Everything You're Told
Ad agencies cannot allow a "service industry" mindset to creep into the creative department. If you're from the brand/account side, don't try to make the creative department fit every client request into the work. As a creative, push back against this sort of micro-management: one ad cannot carry seven main ideas. One ad should carry one main idea. That's why it's called a "main" idea.
If you do end up pushing out hodgepodge work, it's going to be the same as everything else out there. If you keep acting on all feedback points thrown at you, things are going to suck. More benefits in the headline? You got it! Sprinkle a few additional features into the body copy? No problem! Let's put the owner's face in the logo. Sounds great, buddy! Serve the client, but know what battles to fight (sorry to call it "battles"...it's just the first word I thought of).
If you're not careful, the whole process turns into an internal version of "design by committee"—something you've most likely pinned on external people at some point or another. Don't be a hypocrite.
My buddy's dad is a professional salesman. He's worked for several companies selling everything from industrial-sized washing machines to construction cranes. While he provides a service to the buyer, his company is still goods-based
It's the same for you. You're a salesperson for your employer, selling the goods that you produce (which is hopefully engaging content and advertising). Serve your clients and customers well, but don't let them direct the entire show.
When that happens, you can't wow a client because they know what they're going to get. And not wowing a client is the biggest disservice of all.