March 29, 2013
Today is my last official day in the agency business.
I'll sign some papers, de-commission my laptop (whatever the hell that means) and say goodbye to the agency I helped found over 20 years ago.
It's supposed to be a bittersweet occasion. But it's not. It's easy. The art of advertising is still interesting, but the agency business has lost its appeal.
While I do a lot of railing about brand babble and digital stupidity, they are not the big problem. The big problem is consolidation.
Like so much of life in America these days, what used to be an industry lead by craftspeople is now something very different. Much of the industry is in the hands of a few investors and financiers who know nothing about making ads. They know about making money.
Sadly, their influence is felt everywhere. Like them, we have become obsessed with numbers and desensitized to artistry. As a former science teacher, I understand the appeal of data. But I've exhausted my energy for explaining to people who don't understand science how misleading most of the data we collect are and how often that data is misinterpreted.
Advertising has become tough for the craftspeople. They have no ammunition in the face of the onslaught of the philistines. There is a lot of frustration and dissatisfaction. There have always been unhappy ad people, but today discontent among our most important element is dangerously pervasive.
I am not foolish enough to fight the march of "progress." I know reality when I see it, and I understand that objects in motion tend to stay in motion. But that doesn't mean I have to like it or approve of it.
Personally, I'm not complaining. The ad business owes me nothing. I've had a very satisfying and rewarding career. I've gone way further than a C student has any right to go.
I've had the great good fortune to help create two successful independent agencies and, most importantly, I've had a hand in providing a livelihood for a few hundred good people and their families. I'm proud of this.
I'm not through with advertising yet. But I have had enough of the agency business.