Monday, 12 October 2015


A friend of mine is over from China where he works in the business I once tormented (advertising - yeah, you probably noticed the resemblance between me and Don Draper.)  He said something I’ve heard a lot recently.

The industry’s in crisis
Yes” I said, “it always was.

It was in crisis when the young Turks with ideas took over, it was in crisis when the Brits took over the US agencies, it was in crisis when the media men like Kraken awoke and plundered the business and it is in crisis now digital is the story. Someone asked recently what a client’s social media strategy was. That’s rather like asking for a conversing-with-friends strategy.

As the lovely lady exclaimed in Smiths today - “bollocks” as for the second time her purchase of some magazine was double-counted by the DIY self-service till. She said “sorry” but I explained consolingly this was the word I’d been seeking to describe “a social media strategy”.

(By the way what a dreary, ill lit and drab place WHS is. And Kate Swann, their ex CEO, left with £13million for the job she did for them?  Astonishing.)

Recently I met someone with whom I was at Oxford. I haven’t seen much of him over the many intervening years but discovered he was so positive, so different from the many Meldrew “just-typical” figures of our generation, so inspiringly hopeful that we were not in crisis but that in fact we’ve, to quote a Prime Minister of my youth - Harold MacMillan, “never had it so good.”

The fact is markets change because technology changes but human beings don’t. I’m struck by how similar marketing ideas and advertising strategies are to those used a century or half a century ago. Our passions for strange football teams remain solid. (And what a great observation that those stunning crowds that Jezza Corbyn drew in his campaign were smaller than 2nd Division Accrington Stanley gets.) We love, we live, we row, we laugh, jokes we laugh at live forever - and we want the same things - safety, comfort and companionship.I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.  - Thomas Jefferson

And one other thing - a bit of rebellion - Thomas Jefferson one-time US President and a genius said a “little rebellion now and then is no bad thing”. The Corbanista and Trumpeters have brought a sparkle back into politics, some real arguments and besides anything else, how lovely to see the looks of confusion on the faces of the establishment.

So the industry is in crisis. Martin Sorrell is, I hear, intent on “horizontalising” (means “integrate”) the marketing services business. If I’d offered to “horizontalise” that young lady in WH Smith they’d have arrested me.

Sorrell wants to re-invent the one stop shop. It was always a lovely idea but it doesn’t work that well. Stick to your knitting and be the best at what your great at.

Because there is no crisis except in our heads and that’ll never go away.

No comments: