|EVERY GENERATION FACES ITS TEST. Ours in the ad biz came with an industry slump last year. Now our test results have come back. How did we do?
Um... maybe we should sit down first.
Past generations of Ad-Men seized upon tough times to build empires and topple giants. A Southern beverage boosted advertising during the Great Depression while Americas #1 soft drink cut theirs; today Coca-Cola is the global brand, while Moxies dominion encompasses vast swaths of... Maine. During the energy crisis 1970s, those funny Japanese cars got mileage out of their gas mileageand the fact that they were actually better Made in Japan, to boot. Now it sure isnt Honda or Toyota thats the joke.
Todays leaders have seen opportunity in lean times, too: the opportunity to lay people off and control costs after the hot 90s job market. Some of this is plainly unavoidablemagazines are thinner, TV ratings do continue to sink, the easy dotcom dollars have dried up. But all that means is that parts of the business have stopped being so fat that a team of Barbary apes could seemingly make money at them. (I actually freelanced for oneBonobo Chimp DPP Worldwide.) Isnt there one CEO with the, well, moxie to see a tougher marketplace as a chance not just to get smaller, but to get bigger, tooCoca-Cola bigger?
Megamoguls have spent the past decade welding together titanic agency networks in pursuit of new galactic synergies. Where are the full page Wall Street Journal ads from just one of those Adzillas saying, This is the moment weve been waiting for! With the greatest army of advertising experts under one roof on earth, we know how to take advantage of lean times to grab market shareand keep it when times get better. Join us or die!
The hinterlands are full of Fallon McWannabes, creative shops that hope to make Provo or Portsmouth the next destination for creatives and Cannes Lions. What has one of them done to say, Heres your chance. Well do brilliant, hip, brand-igniting work for you, while your big competitors are too scared to spend you into oblivion like they normally would. By the time they wake up to the threat, youll be famous and so will we.
Either we do believe that we hold our clients success or failure in our handsin which case its crazy that were the last industry on earth that doesnt advertise our capabilitiesor else we admit that we really dont know anything. That there was no value to building those globonetworks after all. Sorry to have kicked up such a fuss about branding and all that stuff. Just ignore us next time we get started.
Hey, I dont think that about me. Surely we dont think that about us... do we?
Where is the leader in our business who believes as completely in the power of advertising as Steve Jobs must believe in Apple to work there for free; as Herb Kelleher believes flying is still fun, as Ray Kroc believed in the specialness of special sauce, as Roberto Goizueta believed that water was an iniquitous poison that only Coke could protect you from? Where is the big ad guy (or gal) who doesnt just contemplate ways to shave another .1% off his costs, but who looks at the state of our industry and our market... and thanks God hes alive right now?
Fig. 1 If only Moxie had kept putting marketing dollars into great ideas like the famous Horsemobiles, it'd still be #1 today.