Their difficulties have been brought on by splintering audience groups, the advent of more precise ways of reaching them than mass-media advertising, spending cutbacks on regular advertising and, then, downsizing. We all know the drill.
With the shape of things to come now taking somewhat definable form, however, agencies are adapting and attempting to recharge their batteries. But some talented people have left or given up on the advertising business; there's an executive void as numerous shops go hunting to fill key positions, as reported in these pages last week.
Berlin Wright Cameron has been looking for top creative talent for six months. Young & Rubicam searched for the right media chief and then gave up, splitting management of the department. Happens regularly today.
Ad agencies aren't alone in the talent drain. A story in our Special Report on Promotional Marketing last week noted how the package- goods industry is seeing marketing services executives' leave to join the growing promotion business. It's where the action is.
Recruiting young people trying to move into the work force is almost too obvious to mention. McCann-Erickson Worldwide, for one, is going back to providing training programs. WPP Group chief Martin Sorrell has urged agencies to "be much more aggressive" in recruiting.
But the present need is for talented people to fill top management posts going begging. Success there will depend on how effectively advertising marshals and utilizes the full range of today's marketing disciplines.
This is an industry-wide renewal process demanding that insightful and effective practitioners get involved in a far-flung, determined talent search to insure a successful transition into the 21st Century.