Saturday, January 14, 2006

Ad Agencies Are Groping for Relevance

Adweek and Ad Age announced their picks for Agency of the Year this week. They both picked BBDO and Crispin Porter & Bogusky for snappy ads and new business wins. Ironically Jaffe Juice reported that some of the most notable interactive work from the highly touted campaigns of the winning shops was actually jobbed out to smaller interactive creative shops.

The choices document the on-going confusion and struggle among ad agencies to get out from under an ancient ruling set of creative and media assumptions and a business model that is near death. And even though Bob Greenberg of R/GA has been a Jeremiah preaching the need to integrate disciplines, abandon internal bureaucracy and aim for different creative horizons, he has been generally ignored in spite of the success of his agency in competition with those who cannot or will not change.

Long absent from clients’ strategic council’s ad agencies are flailing in search of staff, direction and new clients. Ad Age’s annual report card documents the revolving door of clients, staff and leaders. direction and some meaning point of differentiation. In a business with no barrier to entry, tiny groups of creatives are stealing global assignments from arthritic networks that can’t get out their own way.

Trapped by 1950s era business processes, underinvested in technology and still very bureaucratic, agencies are unable to move quickly, integrate emerging media or be transparent on pricing or running costs. Seeking direction, leadership and meaning differentiation, we are watching the last dinosaurs gathering around the last watering hole waiting to lie down, die and fossilize.


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