"Can you blame me for thinking it's time to go; this is where I came in," says Fred, who is hanging up his disk drive after 32 years with Ad Age, the last 10 as editor.
He's had a front-row seat to the momentous changes that have rocked and roiled the ad industry. I asked him for his views of the roller coaster ride.
Back when he started with us from UPI, Fred remembers, "we had an agency business that was dominating, assert ive, led by credible founder-entrepreneurs who commanded client confidence. Since then, agencies have found themselves hanging on and trying to regain credibility in the marketing process and climb back in the ring."
In the '60s, when agencies had control of their own and their clients' destinies, "they spawned a creative revolution that swept in with new ideas, energy and talent. Then, beset by the '70s' recessions, they began chopping apart their full-service commitment. The '80s saw agencies become enmeshed in merger and acquisition deal-making, in their changing of the guard and actively building new overseas networks for global changes. For many, growth ultimately fell victim to burdensome debt," Fred recalls.
"Agencies were also karate-chopped when clients rebelled against compensation schedules (thanks to Bob Jacoby's epochal sale of Ted Bates to the Saatchis) and by client access to a la carte services and the steady advance of technology. As clients turned to sales promotion and integrated marketing for results, agencies were slow to understand why and adapt. Today, however, they seem to understand all marketing components."
As for media, Fred says: "Look at today's options in an entertainment-oriented environment. Media demassification (through video rentals, new employment patterns, cable, sports and leisure activity) and the remote wand have loosened the Big 3 networks' power, spawned new broadcast and cable networks and ironically given life to the emerging targeted interactive highway."
With all of this, adds Fred, as he prepares for retirement, "we have a global economy that's receptive to the introduction of Western brands into new free market systems and destined to bring about a new golden age for American marketers, media companies and, yes, agencies as well.
"And now, with America's marketing community bidding the world a fresh hello, here I am, getting ready to say goodbye."
I first met Fred a week or so after he joined Ad Age when I transferred from Washington to our New York office. "I've found a new home," he told me. In the years since, we've shared a lot of excitement-and maybe one or two disappointments. I hope he thinks we continue to keep his home in good repair.