Friday, September 21, 2007

More on the demise of agencies.

If you were to look at an atlas from one hundred years ago when the Hapsburg Monarchy broke up, or even from fifty years ago when the British Empire collapsed, or even from 1989 when the Soviet Union broke up, national names and boundaries would look very different from how they appear today. Similar tectonic shifts are happening in the world of advertising for much the same reason: nations, oligarchies, realms like agencies lose their relevance and meaning. For nations that means people can't come together around a common goal or symbol. For agencies it means their offering no longer speaks to how consumers wish to be communicated with.

In the last couple of years, we've seen Lowe's billings almost literally decimated. Same with Fallon. And perhaps to a lesser degree the same is true with many of the large agencies at the top-most reaches of the big agency pantheon--the large old-line shops.

Many of these agencies have as their leaders people who have yet to embrace what people quaintly refer to as new media. Their fame, their ascent to the advertising stratosphere rested on a great commercial or print ad they did a couple of decades ago. Now, when they're in a crunch they go back to that very bag of tricks to solve their issues. In other words they try to stave off obsolescence via obsolescent behavior.

There's a logic leap coming, but I can't help but think of Henry Ford's famous quote, "If I asked people what they wanted they would have said a faster horse." Though Ford should hardly be regarded as a bastion of progressive management, I trust you'll get the point.

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