Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Advertising: "I'm not dead yet."

Not long ago, Sir Martin Sorrell, ex-Chairman of WPP (Wire & Plastic Products) explained why the advertising market is struggling.

With clients slashing budgets, taking marketing in-house and questioning industry metrics at every turn, struggling may be the understatement of the century.

In any case, you can read Marty's jargon-fested autospy here. He cites three reasons for the ominous downturn:

* Digital disruption

* Activist investors

* The low cost of capital money

I'd be lying through my ceramic-implanted teeth if I said I understood any of that. I don't. But having spent the past 20 plus years working in advertising and NOT Wire and Plastic Products, I have some thoughts on our current supercharged race to the bottom.

It starts with getting emails like this:

"Thanks for attending this morning's 8:30 AM briefing. By now you should all have a copy of the 56 page briefing deck. The junior planners will be coming by at 11AM to check in on your progress, answer any questions and take a peek at your first blush of work. Lunch will be brought in so that you can continue working and have material ready to show the senior planners at 2 PM. Additional check ins will include GCDs at 4 PM. ECDs at 7PM. And a team check in with the CCO (via Skype from her home) at 11PM. Please be prepared to show work in progress to the Partnership Council Committee at 7AM. There will be bagels."

Of course this is hyperbolic and in no way a true representation of how ad agencies work -- there would never be free bagels after only one day on an assignment.

Again, I have no idea what activist investors do or even what they are, I've never met an activist investors or had one hand me his or her business card. Though the other day I did read on linkedin that someone at a London ad agency had been named Chief Making It Happen Officer.

Stupid pretentious titles could be another factor in our collective demise.

This could be another:

Can you spot the difference?

The employees on the left get Summer Fridays (you know when workload permits.)

As if all that weren't demoralizing enough, finally there's the not so insignificant matter of wage disparity. I'm no Alan Greenspan, though there's a good chance I sat next to a Greenspan at last year's Rosh Hoshanah services. I don't understand the meaning of "low cost of capital money" nor its impact on our industry.

But I can pick up a Wall Street Journal and I can see that last year Sir Martin earned more than $100 million in compensation. I can also work a calculator. And can tell you that $100 million is equal to the salary of TWO THOUSAND staffers making a decent wage of $50 thousand a year.

Think how many banner ads 2000 people could crank out in a year.

Or put in other terms, 2000 workers could sew enough schmatta in one year to cloth the entire population of New Jersey.

Want to know why advertising is dying? Because the people at the top are choking the life out of people not at the top. That's why.

I'm going home to watch Jeopardy.


Anonymous said...

Rich, I'm a recovering creative director, happily out of the godforsaken agency world, now freelancing directly for a big client. As usual, you're dead on. One thing I'd mention: Ad agencies seem to have forgotten that their one job is to SELL. That is, to convince consumers to buy their clients' products. It's a freaking lost art. I look at advertising these days -- especially much of the work that wins at Cannes -- and I have no idea what the work is even trying to say.


Anonymous said...

At the end of the day the group on the right has something to show for their time.

Stephen said...

Rich, what's happening in advertising is what's happening in America. The oligarchs have finally taken control and we are powerless to do anything. It's all crooked.

Tony Mariani said...

Wait...you have ceramic-implanted teeth?

SS said...

Rich, this is truth well told, as they say. And guys, no, it is not an America phenomenon, although God knows you have enough problems on your plate. As a Sr. CD from India, this is what advertising looks like across India-China-APAC region as well. This is due to 'globalization', 'regionalism' and other such big words. Concalls, decks, meetings, more concalls, feedback and approvals, more decks, more econcalls . . . it's never ending. Creative work is reduced to changing colours in and words as per the whims of people who answer emails only in turns. what is a creative guy to do? Quit and hope to get the bread home somehow? Doesn't work like that practically. I love how you say 'recovering' CD. Hope to get there someday.

gl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George Parker said...

Don't forget the Poisoned Dwarf, as I refer to him on "AdScam," gave a fourth reason for the poor results... Chinese communists. Meantime, Havas blamed Mexican rapists. Good job BDHC (Big Dumb Holding Company) management is earning their well deserved millions. Cheers/George