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?
I 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?
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?
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?
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?
The short answer is “YES”.