5 questions for Frank Palmer

24 Oct

Frank Palmer is known as the “winningest” man in Canadian advertising, thanks to his incredible run of success with Palmer Jarvis, later DDB. He is the CEO & Chairman of DDB Canada, and is one of the ad community’s most respected leaders and philanthropists. I appreciate him taking the time to answer a few questions for readers of this blog.

Q: The multinationals seem to be moving towards a model of outsourcing, rather than adding on new areas of competency. Where do you think  that process is ultimately leading?

06_palmer_smlI feel that the multinationals haven’t really changed their direction. The big agencies are adding to their existing line-up of services with inter-active, direct, social media services where they can in order to capture as much of their clients spend as possible and the multinational holdco’s are buying up as many competitive diversity services companies as they can purchase cheap. They want it all ways.

Q:  We’ve seen during the past year that many big agencies have been going after smaller pieces of business they used to ignore in order to make their bottom line, which has hurt the smaller agencies. How can the little guys survive?

06_palmer_sml The little guys will not survive unless they stop looking like versions of the bigger guys. If the big agencies  were to offer their services at the same price with better experienced talent, there would be no little guys. The little guys need to continue to provide hands-on ownership expertise and competitive pricing. However that may still not be enough!

Q. Is bigger better in an agency? At what point does profitability and culture level off?

06_palmer_sml Bigger is not necessarily better. There’s a quote out there that says: “How big to we have to be before we get bad”.

The problem is that most advertising agencies first off aren’t advertising agencies. They are clip and paste design shops that do some ad and design work and the odd web site. I’ve found that if the company is operated well the profit remains consistent large or small. The culture will remain the same as long as the founders continue to fight for it.

Q. As an industry, we seem to be all about the next shiny thing.  Will David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach mean anything to the next gen? Does it matter?

06_palmer_sml They will be remembered for having had the guts to stand for something. If our industry doesn’t stand up and fight for what we believe in, we will become a vinyl record collection of past hits. Yes it matters!

Q: Frank, as advertising becomes increasingly about measurability and on-line skills, is it becoming any less fun for you?

06_palmer_sml The short answer is “YES”.


3 Responses to “5 questions for Frank Palmer”

  1. Jack Steinmann October 24, 2009 at 8:46 pm #

    Is it big vs. little that’s the critical distinction? Or, could it be independent vs. corporate ownership? Here in Minneapolis, two of the smallest agencies – both independents – have made some of the biggest creative splashes in the past year, while the larger agencies, all owned by holding companies, have slashed staff to maintain profits, with some struggling to “stand up and fight for” their best creative product.

  2. Frank Palmer October 24, 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    Jack..I believe that it’s both. There are big and small independent shops out there still that are doing great work. However most shops that are either corporate owned or independent are only producing mundane creative. Very few agencies fight anymore, they just take the money.

  3. barrysbook October 25, 2009 at 5:06 pm #

    Frank, I believe it was you who gave me an info interview in Toronto about 6 – 7 years ago, I had driven 300 km from Sarnia. (I was staying with parents there while on vacation from Hong Kong, looking to move back to Canada – finally made it.)
    Thanks again,

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