Friday, January 26, 2024

Non-Investigative Non-Journalism.

It's hard, if not impossible, to find out what's really going on in the advertising industry today.

The subject-object split between the "Award-Winning-ization-izing" of the Holding Companies (where every agency is Agency of the Year) and the reality of near-continuous layoffs or sell-offs is difficult to reconcile. 

What's more, whereas agencies used to report their revenue and billings and their head-count, and those figures would be verified by either the trade-press of organizations like the Four A's, no such reporting seems to happen today.

Your guess is as good as mine.

The more someone says transparent the more they're hiding the truth.

(The truth is, the word transparent itself is a hedge. It's not the same nor is it as good as the word 'honesty.' It's a substitute good like margarine to butter.)

In every industry that's been PE-ized, wealth has been extracted and workers have been made obsolete. You can call it, if you'd like, the walmarting of the economy. A giant entity takes over business, extracts wealth and leaves slag behind. The money that your local economy used to generate now gets sent to Bentonville. The Walton family doesn't have $200B because they're benevolent.

With that in mind, let's look at advertising.

You can find data like the above, for instance, from a source called Macrotrends, but in fact, I don't know who they are or who floats their boats. If I were to type what I read above, that total employment at WPP has dropped from about 200,000 people in 2017 to little over half that in just seven years, someone would quickly, and shrilly, tell me I'm wrong. I probably am. But in the absence of information, this is what I've found.

If someone at WPP or any other of the four holding companies that control roughly 80% of all advertising jobs wants to tell me differently, and back it up with data, mi blog es su blog.

Further, major awards shows like Cannes, and major advertising creativity journals like Contagious are owned by a company called Ascential. 

As far as I can discover through the filters and screens and subterfuges of Holding Company Annual Reports, Ascential owns large portions of some of the large holding companies. So, agencies are owned by the company that owns the awards shows you have to be in to increase the worth of your holding company.

They all own each other. They all need each other. They're all each other's customers.

I think it was Teddy Roosevelt who coined the phrase "malefactors of great wealth." And Franklin who tried to unlock interlocking management boards. Or maybe Joseph Kennedy, first chief of the SEC, who FDR appointed because "it takes a thief to catch a thief."

That all sounds like the update of a 1957-episode of the Untouchables, starring Robert Stack as Eliot Ness, written by Phillip Dougherty.

Just now, my feeds flashed with news from Nielsen, the ratings company that's been swirling down the drain of obsolescence and concocted data for more than a decade now. An ex-boss of mine--a serial takeover guy--had become CEO there about five years ago. I suspected someone was spitting in the soup and I wasn't far from wrong. 

Ad Age (no relation) just ran this headline:

About one-thousand words into the article, the point at which smart readers see the words "There Be Dragons," or more accurately for today, "There Be Private Equity," I read this: 

There are a lot of investment bankers sucking on the frothy teat of the ad industry's cash-flow. They're sucking out all the froth they can and then "offshoring" the remains while they layoff you and me and the twelve people still working at Benton & Bowles (that was a joke. Kinda.)

If you wonder about the future of what had been a vibrant, important industry before it got eaten by the money guys, if you worry when you'll be sucked dry like the Neilsen layoff-ees, I've got a lead on some nice condos in Kyiv. I've heard the cost of living is very low.

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