Twenty-eight years ago in 1988, one of the hottest and best agencies was the fledgling start-up Messner, Vetere, Berger, Carey.
Messner et al was a creatively-driven agency that spun off from the great Carl Ally agency. The principals were not silver-spoon, country club guys. They created advertising that was tough and hard-hitting—helping primarily challenger brands punch above their weight.
Messner, a street-fighting agency, realized that they were losing new business pitches to the plaid-panted old school Madison Avenue agencies. So much business was transacted on the golf course. And at Messner, none of the partners played golf.
So, being street-fighters, they had a solution. They went up to a mini-golf course in Pelham Bay in the ramshackle Bronx and created their own golf tournament—an agency/client affair. Here’s how “The New York Times” covered the vaunted competition:
''It's a tough, competitive, awful business,'' [Schmetterer] snarled. ''If we're not golfing with the clients, someone else will be.'' Thus was born the Turtle Cove Miniature Golf Pro-Am, sponsored by the agency and held Thursday on a truly dilapidated course in the Bronx's Pelham Park. One didn't need to read the specially printed T-shirts to know where one wasn't. ''What'd you expect, Pebble Beach?'' they read.
"The greens - composed of threadbare carpeting - are pockmarked with cigarette burns. Graffiti are everywhere. Water holes don't have water because garbage would rot in them, and on Turtle Cove's signature hole -No. 4, where you roll the ball under a turtle -the reptile's head is missing. Explosions from the Police Department's adjoining bomb disposal range tend to throw off golfers' strokes."
You can read the entire piece on the agency and the tourney here.
I bring this up because I’ve always—in a Manichean way—divided agencies into two groups. 1) The agencies that exist because they do superior creative. And 2) The agencies that exist because they play superior golf.
Right now, there’s a lot of discussion about the incipient retirement of one or two of the heads of one or two of the major advertising holding companies. My friend, Rich Siegel—a stellar creative and even-more-stellar satirist is throwing his hat in the ring. He claims he wants to be the next CEO of the whole ball of wax. See his blog here.
Dozens of Rich's friends are jumping on the bandwagon, piling onto the joke.
But let's take it seriously for a moment.
When all the bullshit is done, lord willing, when all the neo-scientific blather comes crashing down on itself, when marketers realize that "programmatic" is still emailing baldness cures to the hirsute, maybe someday people will realize that the real competitive edge marketers have is better creative.
Think of the world's most-successful brands.
Most of them make successful commercials.
So what would be wrong if a holding company were headed by a creative? What would be wrong if a holding company doubled-down on great work?
In other words: Why not Rich Siegel? Why not now?