Madison Avenue's self-destructive practices need to come to an end! In the wake of a decade or more of marketing cost reductions, CMOs have lost credibility and power; procurement departments have confused benchmarking with marketing, and demoralized agencies have seen their capabilities severely compromised through downsizings, juniorizing and Scope of Work inflation.
Cost reduction programs have run their course. They were never a credible substitute for brand growth as a way of delivering shareholder value.
There have been few strategic winners during the past decade, other than the disrupters -- Google, Facebook, Amazon and the unicorns of online commerce. Legacy brands are languishing. Millennials remain a mystery. Digital and social marketing are question marks. Trust has eroded. Advertisers and agencies alike are battered like addicts caught in a vicious cycle of self-destructive behavior, their relationships increasingly unmanageable. Madison Avenue's Manslaughter (MAM) has taken its toll.
Advertisers and agencies must develop a new paradigm and work in unaccustomed ways to restore brand growth and profitability.
What should be done? ANA and 4As members should take the pledge below to end dysfunctional MAM practices.
The Pledge:We, advertisers and agencies, pledge to work together constructively to realize the full performance potential of our brands. We pledge to enhance our working relationships and avoid or end behaviors that undermine our relationships and our prospects for success.
The industry is near a "tipping point" on these issues, and now is a good time to take the problems by the throat and do something about them.
Marc Pritchard of P&G had blunt words for the industry at the 4As Transformation Conference earlier this month: "Ads are too expensive. They're not driving client sales growth. Agency structures are too complicated. We at P&G fed the complexity beast by hiring thousands of agencies globally. With a specialist for everything, it was difficult to determine who was in charge of anything."
Pritchard now seeks to make logical, databased, reasonable decisions and spend time on great creativity to drive growth.
On the agency side, Ogilvy & Mather has recently tackled excessive complexity under CEO John Seifert by consolidating the various Ogilvy "brands" and reducing the number of competing profit centers, all in the name of providing improved integration for the service of clients.
Management consulting firms have track records of focusing on improved client results. More recently, Accenture, Deloitte and IBM have acquired creative agencies to add to their consulting capabilities -- marrying creativity with analysis to enhance their ability to solve client brand problems.
These initiatives -- and there are many others around the industry -- will coalesce eventually, but it may take an industry crisis, like an earnings failure or growth shortfall at one of the holding companies to mobilize industry action.
Alternatively, leadership from within the industry could signal new directions. The 4As' new CEO, Marla Kaplowitz, could speak about industry health and the need for fundamental changes at the forthcoming ANA Financial Management Conference in San Diego at the end of May. What she says needs to go well beyond the media transparency issues that have dominated recent conferences.
Imagine the effect if Ms. Kaplowitz, as head of 4As, and Bob Liodice, head of ANA, jointly stood together and took the pledge to end Madison Avenue's Manslaughter? That, my friends, would be worth listening to!
Cartoon credit: Charles Barsotti, The New Yorker, The Cartoon Bank. With permission.
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