Thursday, February 22, 2024

Malefactors of Great Meh.

A friend of mine works for a new business consultancy. They recently published the Agency Family Tree which I've pasted above with a GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company headline attached. I removed the name of the new business company. They had nothing to do with my repurposing.

I realize my art direction and design skills are minimal and, really, without merit. I couldn't, though I tried, make the listings of all the individual agencies above that have been subsumed into the giant holding companies large enough to be legible. 

But you should, just based on the mass of grey lines underneath holding company headings, OMNICOM, WPP, PUBLICIS, INTERPUBLIC, DENTSU, HAKUHUDO, CHIEL, HAVAS, STAGWELL, get the idea that the malefactors of great wealth and bland advertising have bought up just about every agency of any considerable size. 

They've kept their paws off of Wieden & Kennedy, who somehow remain independent, and they haven't yet acquired or been folded into the giant accounting consultancies like Accenture or Deloitte. My guess is, that's coming.

Leave no cash-flow unpillaged, right?

I realized something a few years ago when I was in the local supermarket. Where there used to be Coke, Pepsi, 7-Up and then a considerable number of local brands in the soda section, now there are no more local brands. 

The oligarchs, by introducing Coke Diet Zero Low-Caffeine Cherry Vanilla Lemon-Lime light, have bought a shelf-facing. They ain't selling a lot of that SKU (stock-keeping unit) but they're keeping that shelf-space out of the hands of any still surviving smaller competitors. Ask Russia. Ask Ukraine. In a war, you grab territory. Er, it comes with the territory.

The same strategy has removed competition in the hotel industry, the automobile industry, the handheld-device industry, the airline industry, the hamburger industry, and the political-industry. When giant companies own everything and limit choices, quality usually plummets and prices usually rise. There's little question that dynamic--paying more for less--has happened in what remains of the advertising industry.

The "Internet Service Provider or ISP Industry" in the US is a metaphor for so many of the extortionate business practices we no longer question. First, there's no Service-ness or Provider-ness anywhere near their names. Second, if you ever wondered why so many terrible sports teams are owned by cable and internet companies, think of how much money you could make, and what you could do with it, if you owned a toll-booth. These companies have a government-ordained unregulated utility. Billionaireitude usually follows. They make money by strip mining. They never re-invest.

I'm not one-hundred percent sure why there's no anti-trust sentiment arising against this agglomeration of capital. There's a verbal fudge in the law that's on Federal books, it's called "the rule of reason." Corporate lawyers maintain that some restraint of trade is "positive or beneficial for consumers or society." And, I'd allege for reasons of graft, the Sherman Anti Trust Act is about as effective as abstinence videos aimed at horny teens, a tautology if there ever was one.

If you have $100 million and an unwieldy superego and seven or nine Senators on your payroll, maybe you could start to fight for the spirit of the 1890 Sherman Anti Trust laws to again be upheld. But you'd quickly be called a Red and a Socialist and FoxGnus would revoke your citizenship. Besides, you have $100 million--your raison de crumb-cake is to get your next $100 million. That's the American Way. E Pluribus Unum, that's Latin for stick you hand in someone's pocket.

To be fair, year-over-year GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company is growing faster--and maybe even larger--than any of the companies listed in the horrorshow family-tree above. But while my clients range from pre-revenue start-ups to the Fortune 50, I'd really love an auto-maker account, or even a motor-oil, or the electric car division of an automaker or a chain of pool-halls in the midwest or a supplier of fishing gear or a string of training centers that tutor dogs to improve their SAT scores.  

A lot of being a small operation is pushing water uphill. You're shut out of a lot. And you have to compete not only against other creatives but an overwhelming dominant complacency, which includes a depressed fee schedule based on the commodification on creativity perpetrated by the holding companies. Half your work is de-commodification--and that ain't easy.

But they ad game--the ad game that <er> harkens back to the 80s was always an underdog's playground. The little guys always took on the big guys. Like Apple versus IBM or VW versus Detroit. 

I wish it were easier being The Alternative.

At least it's fun.

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