A Simple Reminder: The Ad Industry Is Still Fun

We Have Issues, but There Is Plenty Still to Love

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Marc Brownstein
Marc Brownstein
I regularly hear from people in related fields that ad agencies are dinosaurs. Comments from some of my recent postings on Ad Age's Small Agency Diary about the future of the agency business are even more dire.

"There are simply too many agencies. Too may people in the business because of vanity, presumed talent, avoiding a 'real' job, or perceived glamour," read one.

Another stated: "The ad biz as it has been known is obsolete now. ... Don't blame the pressure for lower fees on the current recession."

Pretty grim stuff.

If I didn't know any better, I'd start packing my bags in advertising and get a job as an insurance broker or university professor. But the truth is, I do know better. Yes, the advertising industry is under pressure. Maybe there are too many shops, because the barrier to entry is not high enough. Yes, fees are being challenged. And it's true that agencies now have to pitch as hard for projects as we once did for long-term, retained relationships. OK, OK. We all know that. Where was I? I was saying something about knowing better.

Ah, yes. Despite the negativity that abounds about the agency business, I believe there is still plenty to love and hold out hope for. Here are a few reasons why your choice of career will continue to be validated as a smart one.

Creativity is still a unique asset. Plenty of commodity products abound in the world, but outstanding intellectual property commands a premium.

The people are great. Agency people are special -- often young, hip, forward-thinking individuals who are open to different ways of solving problems. They are a unique breed and make coming to work every day a lot of fun. Even my dad, Berny, agrees. At age 73, he loves coming to work, and values his relationships with his colleagues decades younger than him -- because he respects their thinking.

Clients need agencies. Some clients try to do it all in-house, and it usually fails. It's too hard to manage. The best strategic and creative talent will only work for an agency. And the culture of an agency is at odds with the culture of a client company, which causes higher turnover and frequent management headaches.

The best ideas still come from agencies, and those ideas are ringing up mega sales. Consider who built these brands: Apple, Volkswagen, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald's, Microsoft, Burger King, General Electric and Walt Disney Co. Hint: They weren't done in-house!

Finally, with all the griping about the agency business, there are numerous other industries that are in real trouble. Imagine being in the automotive industry; or maybe banking; or owning a small retail shop; or being a recently-minted lawyer, and having no job to go to; or being in the airline industry -- only a handful of airlines even make a profit (although working for Virgin Airlines or Southwest might be exceptions!); or being a money manager in the post-Madoff era. Yes, there is no shortage of industries that are far less appealing -- and definitely less fun -- than working in an ad agency.

And what's wrong with having a little fun?

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