The Collapse Of The Traditional Brand Agency – Part 2

“They are the part of our business that is most under pressure as clients shift their budget away from ‘the traditional’ towards ‘the new’ [areas such as digital advertising and marketing technology],” Mark Read, WPP’s new chief executive, has admitted. (campaignlive.com)

In my last article I wrote about the decline of traditional brand agencies in light of the technical changes of between the 20th and 21st centuries. Since most of use live life on a daily basis our point of view on the changes of society seem extended, drawn out over many years, when really most “eras”, the Jazz Era, the Depression Era, the War Years, the Eisenhower Era, the 50’s the 60’s etc…are really only decades apart, but each stands separate and unique in the eyes of history, like the Renaissance or Ancient Rome. But people who lived in the  60’s but were born in the 50’s didn’t see the changes around them as the beginning or end of an era. It was just life. The only difference was changing trends in fashion, television shows and culture. Moving from Elvis Presley to the Beatles was simply a natural progression if you are a fan of Rock and Roll. These changes were notable, interesting and even exciting but certainly not historical, at least not at the time, but only if you confine yourself to Elvis and the Beatles, If you were born in the 50s chances are you know nothing of the “Big Band Era” or Beethoven during the Napoleonic Era. Historians, Sociologists and even Economics love “Eras” and are always eager to discuss them and expound on them no end, especially if it’s a reflection of the progress we’ve made compared to the past. In other words, we’re enamored of the past BECAUSE it is the past. We seem much less enamored when it is the present. 

DURING an era, the social impact of change becomes noticeable and usually in some unflattering ways. The rise of robotics means wholesale loss of jobs, the rise of technology means the end of manufacturing. In other words, society is ok with change as long as it maintains the status quo. But by its very definition, change cannot maintain the status quo.  So when expressed in the media, the gradual market change from media based brand advertising to digital brand advertising is not a gradual transformation but a “collapse” a “decline” or a “meltdown”. Don’t get me wrong, these effects are real, but as I understand destructive capitalism, aren’t as catastrophic as people make them out to be. (http://sonyainc.net/wordpress/totally-awesome-dude/),


 one door opens another closes. Granted it takes time for the pendulum to swing and it’s easy to get caught unprepared for the transition. In my last article I mentioned if major brand agencies cannot make the transition from media to digital they will go the way of the horse and buggy. This may seem unfair, however, consider the following:

In 1900 there were only 4,192 passenger cars built in the US (the only country to be manufacturing cars). There were no buses or trucks.

By the early 1910s, the number of automobiles had surpassed the number of buggies, but their use continued well into the 1920s in out of the way places

The economic turnaround of destructive capitalism today doesn’t seem too different from a hundred years ago, even though the “Internet Era” is supposedly faster, more immediate and, to borrow a phrase from manufacturing…JIT (Just in Time). The industrial and digital revolutions engulfing our lives and the lives of our forefathers took a good deal longer than the  “social” revolutions that took place in the U.S., France or Russia. THOSE were revolutions. 

My point being, The world is changing and will continue to change. As is always the case, some will benefit some will be hurt, who knows if it will be in equal measure or not. All we can do is ask ourselves are we in a better place than we were 100 years ago…200 years ago…1000 years ago? Of course, we are. The trick is to filter out the progress from change. And THAT is what eras are for!

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