Stuart Elliott Publishes Final New York Times Ad Column

Reflects on More Than Two Decades of Change

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Stuart Elliott.
Stuart Elliott. Credit: Monica Schipper/Getty Images

Longtime New York Times ad columnist Stuart Elliot ran his final column for the Times today, looking back on the changes that have come to the ad industry over the past 25 years (he's been covering it for the Times since 1991).

He argues that big agencies have weathered massive change and economic challenges better than other key sectors:

After all, how many major agencies were forced to close during the financial crisis? How many global agency holding groups went bankrupt during the Great Recession? No-spoiler alert: none and none. Compare that enviable track record with how much the automotive, financial and retail industries suffered during those years.

And even though much of the business has consolidated into those global agency holding companies, he notes separately, that's not the whole story:

What has been unexpected is a countertrend: The success of independent agencies prized by clients that perceive entrepreneurial service providers to be more nimble, less hidebound, more innovative and, with less overhead, less costly. In the early '90s, principals of one- or two-person agencies would pretend their shops were larger by starting off the phone extensions at 12 or 13. Perhaps 2015 will be when a big agency pretends to be smaller.

Before the Times, Mr. Elliott also covered advertising for Ad Age and USA Today. This month, he said he was one of the employees -- at least 85, according to the Newspaper Guild of New York -- who applied for the paper's latest round of buyouts.

The Times has not said whether it will continue the ad column, an institution of the business section previously written by columnists including Phil Dougherty, Peter Bart and Randall Rothenberg. (Keith Kelly reported at the New York Post today that "word is circulating" that it won't continue, but seemed to base that conclusion on a lack of buzz about potential successors.)

After today's column, a quick note:

This is the final Advertising column by Stuart Elliott, who is retiring.

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