March 23, 2016

Advertising's Slow-Motion Suicide Continues

Seven years ago, in a post entitled "Crisis Of Advertising" I wrote,
"There way in which the ascendancy of the web is harming ad agencies. We are allowing it to draw off a whole generation of talented creative people."
This week, two trade publications wrote feature pieces on how advertising is losing creative people to tech firms.

In "Where Have All The Creatives Gone?" Ad Age wrote,
"Seeking a respite from the realities of today's agency life... more chief creatives are looking from their corner cubicles toward Silicon Valley."

In "How Agencies Are Fighting Back Against Talent Raids by Tech Firms and Marketers" Adweek said,

"More often than not, agencies can't compete..."

Bullshit. The advertising industry can compete. We just choose not to.

We gave up on creativity years ago and we're now paying the price. The industry foolishly thinks its future is in data and technology. As a very wise man once said...
"The ad industry has decided to play the other guy's game. They are now competing in an arena in which they have distinct disadvantages. They are not as good at data or technology as their competitors. They are quietly abandoning creativity, although it is still the one and only thing that clients can't get somewhere else."
Now clients can get it somewhere else. At home. And the ad business is in deep snow as a result.

As the great Dave Trott put it, "...we have become an industry of bank managers."

You can invent all the rationales you want to explain why talented creative people are choosing to leave -- too much work, not enough pay -- but it comes down to this: power.

The agency business was once powered by creativity. It no longer is.

Creative people have no power in most agencies. Creativity is given lip-service, and nothing else. Creative people are harangued by so-called "strategists," they are squeezed by incompetent account mismanagers, they are paid poorly, and are jerked around by tone deaf clients.

In an industry that now thinks media is more important than ideas (see Sorrell, Martin) their power is negligible and falling.

There is only one hope for the ad industry. As that same wise man once wrote...
"We need to quit blathering about the false gods of interactivity, precision targeting, social media, data, and technology... and convince marketers that the most effective way to build brands and businesses is through the unique and unmatched power of mass media and brilliant advertising."
To do that we need to get over our obsession with incrementalism. We need to get rid of the small minds with small goals and small talents.

Until we do that, great creative people will keep leaving. And clients will follow.

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