Monday, May 12, 2014
We're Not Number One
While the NBA struggles with issues of character and ill-informed stupidity at its highest levels, the advertising industry finds itself doing the same.
You might remember 9 months ago we heard of the proposed $35 billion merger of Omnicom (an alma mater) and Publicis (also an alma mater).
This "marriage of equals" was to bring us "untold synergy and a global platform with which to ideate, implement and execute scalable innovative and disruptive communications devices for the betterment of our clients and indeed all of mankind."
Which is another way of saying a few obscenely rich white dudes could have expanded their harem of mistresses and purchased a new fleet of yachts.
That's not jealousy you're sensing there, that's a finely polished ulcer of bitter frustration.
In today's modern advertising industry there's not even the illusion of fairness.
Workers bees like myself, and probably you, never get equity in an ad agency, particularly those owned by the holding companies. You and I were not invited to the wealth distribution party. You have to be a made man or a made woman -- oh who are we we kidding it's only men -- to secure a position at the billion dollar feeding trough.
And getting to the top of Mt. Advertising is not a matter of creating great ideas, entering the iconic language of pop culture or even mastering this new digital landscape.
If I'm not mistaken, the capos…er, CEO's of the four holding companies, Messrs. Wren, Levy, Sorrell and Nadal have never written a headline.
Never comped a layout.
Never scratched out a banner ad in their life.
I'd bet a testicle not one of them has ever laid hands on a gator board.
All that is moot.
Because as many you heard, last week the urge to merge lost its surge. And the deal was called off. There was some hooey in the press about the marriage failing because of a "clash of cultures."
Give me a break. I know the Supreme Court said corporations are people, but holding companies don't have cultures.
Holding companies have vaults where they hold all the money. Maybe the Omnicom vault was jet black and the Publicis vault was charcoal grey. A junior art director with a Pantone chart could have mediated that little clash.
Adweek reported that both companies have spent a combined $100 million in fees for lawyers and international accountants to sort out the deal; the deal that didn't happen. And all it bought them was a public relations nightmare.
That money has literally been pissed into the wind.
How could it have been better spent?
* $100 million could have been set aside for a pension plan, you know for the advertising people who actually do the advertising work for an advertising company.
* $100 million could have been used to build proper offices. Not some fakakta Superdesk, but real offices, with doors that close. So that you can get on the phone and describe in detail that funny rash you discovered on your inner thigh.
* $100 million could have been used for flight upgrades. Comfortable, humane seats in business class for demoralized copywriters who have been asked to give up time with their friends and family and don't want to sit 7 hours in coach, in a middle seat wedged between a fat guy and an older woman who chain smokes and wears too much perfume.
* $100 million could have been spread across the board. Divied up between the collective 130,000 employees at both organizations. I did the math. It works out to a $750 bonus for each and every employee.
Imagine the note that some smart CEO could have penned to accompany that unexpected windfall:
Dear OmniCom or Publicis employee,
We've recently been approached to merge with one of our competitors. This is in no doubt because of the value and worth you have given our company. Your loyalty, determination and hard work have raised our profile in the industry.
None of this would have happened had it not been for you.
After careful consideration of the deal and before we engage a hoard of outrageously expensive lawyers, we have turned down that offer. Mostly because we're not in the merger and acquisition business.
We're in the business of advertising. And our most valuable assets ride up and down the elevator everyday.
Accordingly we'd like you to have this small token of our appreciation -- a check for $750.
Pay some bills, go out to dinner, throw a party for your son to make up for the birthday you missed.
And thank you for making us look good.
Of course, it didn't happen that way.
It never does.