David Ogilvy, where are you?
Where Have You Gone David Ogilvy
At one time, advertising was about a creative force coming together to move people to action. It was about targeted messages and concrete promises. This was good.
Maybe that golden age of the ad business did have to do with the gray flannel suits on Madison Avenue. Maybe that golden age was Darren in the TV show "Bewitched".
This is not to argue that the dancing and singing monkeys of old jingles represented the apex of creativity, but perhaps they represented more honesty.
At one time, the leading light in advertising was a copywriting genius named David Ogilvy. He founded Ogilvy and Mather.
Now the acknowledged leader-at least from his press clippings -is a green eye-shades type named Sir Martin Sorrell.
For goodness sakes, a financial guy.
What happened? It all started when ad agencies stopped being ad agencies and became a conglomerate pea soup of conflicts and fleeting loyalties. In a business once dominated by creative personalities, it is now the collective house of financial drones.
Is it really good for the advertiser when one-time great agencies Young & Rubicam, J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy are under the same corporate tent-in this case the Sir Martin led WPP.
What's the purpose? To create synergies?
It doesn't happen. It doesn't come close. The size serves no real purpose. And, as we see today, these behemoths' stockholder value has the consistency of cotton candy.
It creates merely bigness. Conglomerates these days have very little to do with the end-product of advertising. They are financial houses that buy and sell and sometimes shutdown. And, they are excruciatingly subject to economic fluctuations.
Sir Martin gained a reputation as a semi-soothsayer when he described the economy in the early 1990s as bathtub shaped, whatever that really meant. Automatically it was elevated from a turn-of-a-phase to Sir Martin being an ad guru.
For the last several years Sir Martin has been very visible in suggesting what kind of a year the ad industry would have by basing it, almost entirely, on what seismic events would occur over the year-usually a big sporting event like an Olympic game.
He got it all wrong. He didn't comprehend the fundamentals, of which he was a part.
The interesting thing is that smart people paid attention to him. But the ad industry, to a great extent, is a bellwether of the global economy.
It was never about how many major sporting events were to be held in a year. Or whether there was an important election.
It wasn't even about the so-called sub-prime crisis, or a group of irresponsible American bankers. It was and is about people like Martin Sorrell who reside in virtually every publicly traded industry.
For them, bigness is paramount, and the three month race to the next quarterly stock report represents the Holy Grail. In the end, the house of cards eventually collapses under huge debt and conditions folks like Sir. Martin helped create.
It is bound to happen-every time.
Oh for the leadership of a slightly weird, somewhat profane, but brilliantly honest man in the ad business like the late David Ogilvy.
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