Monday, October 09, 2006

From Famous Advertising Name to Meaningless Initials

WOW! This content was up and running on Advertising Age Magazine's web site. Then they pulled the content.

Ex-marketing positioning jock Al Ries is up in arms over J Walter Thompson's name change. I've called J Walter Thompson JWT for over 40 years - so what's the big deal. At least they're still in business - and the graphics look great!
Of more importance is the inability of an advertising agency to distinguish itself. No. I do not mean "by awards." I mean in it's ability to differentiate itself from rivals. McCann-Erickson is still positioning itself as the "mental jelly fish." Go to the agency's site. Also see Jonah Bloom's column in last week's Ad Age Magazine - "Agencies Short On Real Ideas..."
No. Advertising used to be a game of finesse. There was room to spread your elbows. Agencies distinguished themselves by their founder's unique styles. David Olilvy for his Hathaway print ads; Leo Burnett for his ability to churn out the Marlboro Man and other characters; Bill Bernbach for his timely and clever turn of phrase (remember VW releives gas pains!). Those styles have all been absorbed into the mix. Marketers are the borg. Resistance is futile. The practices of the greats are now generic tools employed by the masses - employees at namesake agencies wholesaleing their time for paychecks but unable to raise the bar beyond founders (in their defense: have you ever tried starting your own business?) who converge on the same position as category rivals simply saying the same things about themselves [creatively] different ways.
Commoditization complete. Yes. JWT might loose its identity, as did Marschalk, Ted Bates and so many other greats. Madison Avenue is certainly one product that needs to reverse the effects of a mature product lifecycle. But then again, to get great advertising, clients must give agencies so much more than just a positioning statement with product features, functions and benefits to extoll.
So physician, "Heal theyself" or hire me to execute a turnaround.

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