McGarryBowen was named Burger King's new lead creative agency in June, on the heels of winning a closely-watched pitch for Sears and following two years of explosive growth fueled by expanding relationships with clients from Kraft to Pfizer. The agency's track record has racked up plaudits from clients -- "they're on a roll," Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg told Ad Age earlier this year -- but when it comes to peers, there's more vitriolic commentary than high-fiving.
On the Mediabistro-owned ad blog AgencySpy, the news last month that McGarryBowen replaced CP&B on Burger King was met with scorn. The shop, and in some cases its execs, were assailed with juvenile name calling -- a "consortium of hacks" who get "dumb clients to buy their bullshit." Those who came to the agency's defense were chastised. Towards the end of a string of 77 comments -- all anonymous except one -- was this, the one truly astute observation: "We have officially entered the Dark Ages of Advertising."
There is a collective feeling in adland that the business is simply not as fun as it used to be, and not just because of deflated expense accounts and increased pressure, but because a post-recession black cloud of negativity has descended over Madison Avenue.
While the agency community has never been a Kumbaya sort of place ("Mad Men" does a fine job of illustrating this), executives around the industry think the atmosphere is growing noticeably uglier. In many cases, they blame technology.
Online media is enabling hate to surface faster and travel farther. The widespread internet-bullying is a growing concern for the heads of agencies, who fear their talent will either join in the bashing -- or, worse -- that their creative juices will evaporate as their work is tried in the courtroom of nameless web critics. After all, advertising is an art, and artists tend to take their work personally. "The internet has allowed sensationalism to permeate advertising," said Tom Carroll, the CEO of TBWA/Chiat/Day. "The world has become far more competitive and headline-driven, and our business is no different."
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