STILL TRUE TODAY

Published on .

I submitted the following to Advertising Age in October 1991. It never saw ink....However, with the present Saatchi uproar, I can't help but think that what was presented to you then is every bit as timely today.

We are a dying industry and have only ourselves to blame. Like the Pied Piper, and for the sake of greed and self-indulgence for the chosen few, we have lost our integrity and are selling out to the highest bidder.

What used to be a business that prided itself in delivering exciting creative solutions to marketing problems, with the added personal touch from people who genuinely cared, has given way to the impersonal mechanical appearance of a bank. Not to mention the total lack of the "loyalty' factor and a bond between clients and their agencies.

In the name of progress, or "globalization," we've lost touch with the essence of what the advertising business is all about.

While Maurice, Charles and Martin were bingeing on buyouts, others were forced into a "keep up with the Joneses" mode, forming incompatible affiliations to remain competitive.*.*.I guess that growing big and going public ain't all that it's cracked up to be.*.*.More and more, those who saw gold in them thar hills are now trying desperately to buy back their souls from the devils.

Unfortunately, this debacle has had a cancerous effect that has spread throughout the industry. Along with all the merging we now see purging-"downsizing." The mortality rate in advertising and related industries has reached epidemic proportions-with no cure in sight.

The natural growth an attrition has been compressed and shortened the lifespan of many agencies and consummate professionals, victims in large part to the mega-agency syndrome.

The $500,000 to $3 million account that had been the mainstay of smaller agencies that could offer good work and service, at a profit, are now being wooed by the big guys who must show their management they're turning up new business-but losing money in the process. In the final analysis, agencies aren't delivering the same high quality and service and clients suffer the consequences. Any wonder why there is no loyalty?

Some believe this pruning is required to keep the garden healthy. But one must be able to differentiate between weeds and solid, healthy roots.

Since all things are cyclical, it is still not impossible for the next crop of entrepreneurs to realize their dreams. Maurice, Charles, Martin, the course you've tried to chart is again beginning to change. Those sweet melodic tunes from the Pied Piper have turned sour. And when the music finally stops, the parade ends. Our collective backbones are on the mend.

Stephen R. Brown

Ossining, N.Y.

Editor's note: "Maurice, Charles and Martin" refers to Maurice and Charles Saatchi, founders of Saatchi & Saatchi Co., and Martin Sorrell, founder of WPP Group.

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