Oct 3, 2007

Mad Men No More

AMC via NY Observer

Two recent articles, one in Ad Age, the other in the New York Observer focus on how advertising has lost its mojo and try to explain why.

They both get it wrong too, the Ad Age article focusing on the exclusion of women and minorities during that era (true enough, but not sure what it has to do with anything) and the Observer focusing on the types of clients (big pharma) the industry now uses to pay the bills.

The articles were so off, I actually posted a comment on the Observer article, which went something like this (NB: It makes more sense if you read the Observer first.)

Interesting article but you skipped over the main reason advertising agencies lost their glamor: in the late 80s and early 90s, the major agencies were all acquired by 4 major holding companies: WPP, IPG, Omnicom and Publicis. These holding companies have come in, cut staff dramatically, demanded stricter accountability on expenses, and, most importantly, cut salaries dramatically, even at the very top levels.

What's left is a much more corporate, much less creative environment where no one sticks around because there's no way to get rich or even close to it. Lupinacci is dead-on in his take that the sort of people who were once attracted to the ad business are now all working for Google.

If there are small hot start-up agencies like Anamoly, they are quickly snapped up by the holding companies as soon as they show any signs of growth. And given the holding companies deep pockets who can blame the owners for cashing out for millions.

A final factor in the death of Madison Avenue is that clients are no longer particularly New York-centric. The hot agency of the moment, Crispin Porter Bogusky (Burger King, VW) is based out of Miami and Boulder. Goodby Silverstein (Hyundai, Comcast, Sprint, HP) another powerhouse is in San Francisco and Wieden and Kennedy (Nike) is in Portland, Oregon.

As for Richard Kirshenbaum, he's not exaggerating: he really is the last famous ad man left in New York.

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