Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Chain Store Advertising.

As I grow ever-older (I'm told it beats the alternative) I become more and more acutely aware of the concentration of wealth in our country and the world.

The neighborhood and city I live in used to be populated by small mom and pop businesses. You could get a coffee not brewed by a multinational. A hamburger not frozen and hormoned and surlied in your direction. You could talk to the person who owned the shop--whose middle-class life depended upon good quality and service. Not a low-wage worker who doesn't give a shit and is likely spitting in your McFlurry, whatever a McFlurry is.

To be absolutely blunt about it, the multinational businesses that now dominate every sector of our lives and exist without meaningful competition are   c   o   l   o   n   i   a   l    powers.

They consolidate production, stifle competition, depress wages and thereby extract wealth.

When you bought clothes pins or crayons or nail clippers at your locally-owned store, a sizable portion of the profits of those sales stayed in your community. When you buy from Walmart, the profits go to Bentonville, Arkansas and Packer's "six surviving Waltons."

Today that's happening with Walmart and Amazon and Starbucks. A century ago, it happened with United Fruit, Standard Oil or J.P. Morgan's and Elbert Gary's US Steel. Many people labor for these companies (usually at subsistence levels and with no employment security) but real wealth attaches only to a few at the very top. 

I've lived in this business from a time when there were hundreds (no exaggeration) of independent shops--therefore hundreds of agencies competing for your labor (which is generally good for wage-earners) to today's holding company oligarchy. 

Again to be blunt, what we have in our industry is CHAIN STORE ADVERTISING.

Think of the characteristics of a chain store.

1. They compete on price and selection. Not quality.
2. They cut staffing to the absolute minimum and generally pay that staffing minimum wage.
3. You can never find what you need.
4. You can't find staff who can help you.
5. Staff is transient--they leave the second there is a better job elsewhere.
6. Service is virtually non-existent. (Just try to return something.)
7. Staff (because they're often under-paid and transient) is  not usually interested in customer service. 
8. All offerings are uniform. Whatever works for most people is what is sold. Unique, custom solutions are unavailable.

To my mind, those seem roughly the characteristics of the modern holding-company-agency. No wonder so many clients are bringing business in-house, doing away with the concept of having an "agency of record" and turning to AI and programmatic to create their work for them.

Boiling it down to a sentence or two, it's not unusual to hear things like, "My agency isn't interested in my business." Or the equally damning, "My agency doesn't listen to me."

Those are exactly the feelings I have when I'm forced into a chain store like a Home Depot, a Best Buy, or a Staples.

I wonder what clients think about us.

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