Advertising: No country for old men?

17 Jan

I’ve always heard that advertising is a game for the young. Has that ever been more true than it is now?

Most of the admirable people who were in mid-career when I began working have moved on or are solidly in senior management now, shaking their heads at the pace of change within the industry.

“What’s happening to the value of brands in this hyper-measurable environment?” they want to know. As media becomes increasingly digital and measurable, the quick hit moves the sales needle faster than the longer-term brand-investment work. Many clients don’t want results in Q4. They want them this afternoon.

Agencies increasingly hire younger online-savvy people to stay abreast of the rapid-fire changes. They come into the business speaking the digital language, which makes the old guard feel stupid and, well, old. They question their value to the business in the new climate.

But what is any business but a series of incremental steps from where it began. If there is no value in the seasoned voices, then we have leapt into the void with nothing to ground us. If we have no past, we have no future.

As Frank Palmer, DDB Canada’s renowned agency frontman, recently commented in a Q&A here on this blog: “(The old guard) had the guts to stand for something. If our industry doesn’t stand up and fight for what we believe it, we will become a vinyl record collection of past hits.”

A drop of reason in a sea of cost-per-clicks.


3 Responses to “Advertising: No country for old men?”

  1. Mike January 18, 2010 at 10:57 am #

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s like a train on a track that’s only being built as you’re speeding along. While each new piece of track laid moves you to a new station and to new horizons, often it doesn’t hurt to take that track that’s already been built back to check out some of the sights at past stops.

    Nobody ever got great at something by being able to follow the latest trends or by running before they could walk (or crawl for that matter) these gentlemen at the apex of management bring what many of the newbie’s don’t have, experience and the basics.

    Anybody can learn technology but understanding the fundamentals of marketing and the basics of understanding your target (even if it is for the afternoon rather than Q4) is a skill that can only be gained with experience, not with a twitter feed.

    Good article Doug! Cheers.

  2. frank palmer January 18, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    The problem is that the majority of Agency Presidents and CD’s are afraid to stand-up or say anything that might seem controversial. Basically they end up standing for nothing. Doesn’t matter whether you are young or more seasoned (old) stand up for your beliefs.

  3. dougbrowncreative January 18, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    Mike> great points. They ring true for any profession really don’t they.

    Frank> I don’t find a lot of agencies to be very confident in what they have to offer, maybe that’s where the lack of courage comes from. Or maybe the pressure to make the 17% remittance to head office in New York has quietened the voices…

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