Even Death is bored.

First JWT closes down its 100-year old operation in Chicago, and then the much-beleaguered, much-named Enfatico is swept under the WPP rug. And the drumbeats get louder: Advertising is dead. TV is dead. Newspapers are dead. Long live the…

The what? The continuous reporting of death and destruction in Ad Land was inevitable and necessary but isn’t it part of a bigger story, a story that’s ready for part II…or even part III?

Honestly, the beginning of the End started 20 years ago, give or take, with the phenomenon of holding companies taking over the advertising landscape. A decade later the Internet arrived and, while at first aiding and abetting Ad Land, it quickly took on it’s own agenda, sucking advertising revenue from older media and, more crucially, changing how consumers and content relate to one another.

So here we are. In my last post I wrote with optimism about the future of marketing services. If big agencies are truly unified (not posing or fronting) they will prevail. Specialty shops always have a place. But I’m missing a piece, one that is critical.


Who among us will emerge from the chaos poised to reinvent? As current leadership (myself included) goes about playing the cards we have (some far better than others), where are the game changers?

Does marketing have a Michael Jordan or a Tiger Woods? Is marketing even the right word? Granted, unlike sports (where the game hardly changes at all) our world has been turned upside down. But still, we are only transitioning. In order for the ad game to be reinvented we need inventers.

Agencies like Crispin Porter & Bogusky and clients like Apple show us the potential for our industry. They think different and it shows. Alex and Steve are visionaries. My opinion, haters of CP&B are mostly ignorant, jealous or both. This agency is the modern version of Doyle Dane Bernbach. I’m sorry if that’s a hard pill to swallow. In his day, Bill took a lot of shit too. Apple needs no explanation or defense. So strong is their karma it altered not only technology and marketing, it changed the world.

So who’s next and what’s next? Instead of everyone criticizing the old models and their fat cat leaders, why aren’t we seeing any new gurus and game changers? Picking on Martin Sorrel and Howard Draft is so last year. Harping on the death of everything is equally laborious. If you want the definitive text on what went wrong and who’s to blame read The Ubiquitous Persuaders by George Parker.

It’s not a war between advertising and digital. Or direct marketing versus general. They are ALL important. And they are all in trouble. Enough said.

I’m declaring that part of the revolution over. Who among us is capable of delivering the new model for another fifty years, or even twenty? And yes, I’m talking to all the sharp shooters hiding within their cubes or trolling the Internet looking for targets. Put down your water pistols and figure this shit out.

Integrate or die, America!

What to say about advertising when our free market system is in turmoil? Should we make others buy things when maybe they shouldn’t? Or is a national bout of consumerism just what this wretched economy needs? I don’t know. Moot points if your checking account is frozen like those belonging to my mother and grandmother.

Listening to the candidates during this evening’s Presidential debate, I don’t think either of them knew what to do. Not really. How could they? For months these two men have been practicing talking points. Coming up with phantom foes like the “media elite.” Mythical good guys like “Joe Six Pack” and “Hockey Mom.” They wrestle over the word “change,” pulling it apart like gristle. Don’t they realize every candidate has always talked about change, unless he was an incumbent? Sigh. In the end, they’re not bankers. And besides, even the bankers are at a loss.

We all are.

And what of our industry’s leaders? Do you think Martin Sorrel or Maurice Levy knows what to do –even within his own company? A few weeks ago it appeared the advertising holding companies were doing better. According to my financial adviser, advertising positions will never be the anchor of a good portfolio. But still, these stocks were trending upwards. Will these gains be defeated? No question.

Instead of answers, we get platitudes about “change.” The candidates for President act as if Washington were an Etch-A-Sketch. They’ll just shake it up and start over. Their squiggly lines won’t stink as much as the predecessors did.

In our business, we have our own fettered word for change: integration. When our clients became increasingly doubtful and scared (of us), we coined it.

Fear and ignorance breed limited vocabularies. In politics, we are given familiar sounding concepts (change and hope) and/or romantic fairy tales (heroes and evil doers). The last question posed to each candidate in the debate was “What don’t you know?” Of course neither of them answered it. Here’s what I would have liked to hear: “I’m going to seek counsel from the brightest people and then I’m going to try and do the next right thing.”

If and when my clients ask me for advise during these turbulent times, I hope I have the temerity to answer accordingly.

Don’t hate me because I’m rich, newly rich, beautiful or simply just ridiculous.

My last post called out pop star, Peter Wentz for being “that guy.” You know, an individual, who for some silly-ass reason bugs the living crap out of me. And presumably countless others.

But why stop at Hollywood celebrities? Hating on them is mainstream entertainment. What about us: the advertising cognoscenti? Read the trade press. The countless ad blogs. I know there are numerous people in our business who, for whatever reasons, drive us crazy. Christ, I’m no doubt one of them. With my clichéd baldhead. My writing about God and advertising. I’d hate me! What about others? How ’bout the threesome pictured above? Just looking at these guys, right?

Is it the fame? The good looks? Or just the shape of their heads?

Who’s your Bette Noir? Who among our ranks drives you bonkers because of their status, reputation or whatever? This is inane…insane. Even the Gods of Advertising are rolling their eyes. But I’m on summer vacation. Let’s have some fun. We can take it, can’t we?


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