But at a panel dedicated to advertising's old guard, Mr. Dusenberry, a former chairman of BBDO North America, and Mr. Ney, chairman emeritus of Young & Rubicam, and a trio of their contemporaries demonstrated that they're gamely keeping up with a business that, as one put it, "was very different 15 or 20 years ago."
The event, part of Advertising Week in New York, was held at the Museum of Television & Radio.
Despite the sea changes that agency consolidation and a rapidly expanding media landscape have wrought, the panel discussion was remarkably free of nostalgia. A little more than a week after the last large independent agency, Grey Global Group, was snapped up by WPP Group, the consensus of these former and current agency bigwigs was that the holding company model offers more ways for agencies to service large marketers, which also have been growing and consolidating.
"It provides us with the reach to serve more clients," said Keith Reinhard, chairman and president of DDB Worldwide. "The important thing is that we always keep creativity at the center. You can't just say 'Big is bad.'"
Opportunity was a key concept as the panelists ranged widely over issues facing the industry, from media diversity to the threat from digital video recorders like TiVo, which allow viewers to zap ads. The sheer amount of media choices available to today's consumers, for instance, makes planning ad placement that much more important. "There should be a creative director of media," said Burt Manning, chairman emeritus of WPP's J. Walter Thompson.
More ideas from agencies
The speakers agreed that clients are looking for more ideas from agencies about how to reach consumers than they did in the past. While they agreed that the latest craze surrounding branded entertainment hearkens back to the early days of TV and radio, they said that in the future agencies would need to find more strategic ways of incorporating brands into programming.
"Product placement is in an embryonic stage," Mr. Dusenberry said. "Agencies have to take more control over shows."
The old guard also agreed that today more is asked of the individual industry practitioner.
Speaking with his tongue in cheek, Jerry Della Femina, chairman-CEO of Della Femina Rothschild Jeary & Partners, said, "We've evolved from a business where you had to do one thing well -- advertising -- to a business where you have to do a lot of things badly."