Ad Age Original VIDEO Report

Andrew Robertson Monkeys Around During 4As Talk

BBDO CEO Dismisses Death of Big Agencies, but Salutes Work of His Rivals

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Andrew Robertson pointed out that 25.67% of all the agencies in the top 15 in 1995 had gone extinct by 2005.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AdAge.com) -- There was part of a gorilla costume, a picture of a baboon, a big plug for chimp-deploying agency Cramer-Krasselt and a "sort of" conclusion.

BBDO Worldwide CEO Andrew Robertson's humorous and creative speech -- definitely more performance than presentation -- at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' annual management conference was billed as tackling the question of whether the death of the big agency is "greatly exaggerated."

'Sort of' exaggerated
Speaking with a gorilla mask placed next to him on the dais, Mr. Robertson explained that big agency's death has "sort of" been exaggerated. Taking a look at changes in the agency ranks, Mr. Robertson showed that of the top 15 shops in 1995, nine were still around in 2005. Two had dropped out of the top 15 list, six had entered the list and four had died.

"Four out of 15 -- 26.67% -- extinct over a 10-year period," Mr. Robertson concluded. "To me, that's a death. And it's not exaggerated. Sort of. Sort of because, as always, the facts may indeed be facts, but they can, in the wrong hands, be used to reach bad conclusions.

"But more importantly," he continued, "it's 'sort of' because size isn't really the point." His point, of course, was that it's more important to be good than big or small and that any agency that defined itself by its size would surely decline and die -- "only faster" in the case of the small agency.

Earning engagement
Instead, he said, the marketing world should be focusing on the scarcity of the consumer's attention. "We are living in a digital world," he said. "Not defined by digital media, but by what consumers can do with digital media. ... They are either engaged or not engaged. On or off. Their engagement can, increasingly, no longer be bought. It has to be earned."

To demonstrate how to engage, Mr. Robertson showed one of Cramer-Krasselt's chimp-employee spots for Careerbuilder.com, a rare example of an agency CEO lauding another agency's work. He also displayed the Careerbuilder Monk-e-mail Web page, a feature he said he had spent hours playing with.

Mr. Robertson went on to laud the "wonderful" Crispin Porter & Bogusky too, although a picture of a baboon was the image that accompanied his remarks on that agency.

The audience takeaway: Size isn't important; engagement is; and chimps are always entertaining.

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