The Death of Advertising is only Collateral Damage

People keep sending me stuff about the fall of JWT et al. The comments are mostly whinging, whining, naive stuff.

Boo bloody hoo!

I worked with JWT for 12 years all around Asia I was Regional Exec CD, Regional Strategic Planner and sat on the World-Wide Standards Committee. None of what has happened either surprises me or unduly saddens me. I left two years after WPP bought JWT and Ogilvy and booted out the Standards Committee – not a profit centre you see. In a late 1980s wet dream (Nightmare? Ed.) I saw what was about to happen: an ever declining circle of corporate absorptions and rationalizations leading to today’s new acronyms dressed up as improvements to the industry. Maybe!

To understand, one needs to ask why did agencies bear the names of individuals, Thompson, Burnett, Lowe, Bates, McCann etc? Well to start with clients could usually speak to the man who owned the shop. They like that you know.

David Ogilvy once said he wondered why advertising never achieved the professional status of lawyers; well sweetheart, corporations do not own law firms. They are in the hands of named partners; that’s a great part of it. But nevertheless Davey-boy, in an instant, took the silver from the ‘odious little jerk’; so don’t give me that old tosh.

But above all it started back in the 80s when Neo-liberalism, Reganomics and Thatcherism began the inevitable decline. Conglomerate ownership rather than single ownership was the clarion call, it was anathema to real progress and of benefit to no one other than shareholders, chairmen and boards of directors. As if corporations would pass profits down to the workers! (three cheers for UAW).

Trickle down, my arse.

So oh no, ultimately the problem is much, much bigger than WPP or Publicis or Omnicom; summed up in a pithy little quote from the Nobel Prize-winning, super-economist Milton Friedman; Margaret and Ronnie’s best buddy.

“The only corporate social responsibility a company has is to maximize its profits.”

You see, these days greed is not just good, it’s inevitable, if not everything. The old agencies are just unfortunate victims caught in the crossfire. So simply bury them and don’t grieve –  just dance on their graves.

Listen, I can hear Karl spinning in his.

Paul J Loosley is an English person who has been in Asia 40 years, 12 as a creative director and 26 making TVCs. And still, for some strange reason, he can’t shut-up about advertising. Any feedback; mail [email protected] (please keep it glowing).


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