Agencies Should Make Play for Their Own D.C. Dollars

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

With automakers and financial companies bowing to D.C. in exchange for money, perhaps agencies should get in on the action. And the good news for agencies is they don't have to seek bailouts from the taxpayers to get a bump in their revenue (not directly, at any rate).

Like it or not, one of the few growth industries in the country at the moment is government. Put aside the issue of the so-called stimulus plan and the billions upon billions of taxpayer money flowing out of D.C.

Usually, when the reins of power switch hands, we see an uptick in issue advocacy. Some had predicted the financial meltdown might put a damper on Barack Obama's administration and the Democrats in Congress. That doesn't seem to be the case. From environmental issues to regulatory issues to health-care issues, both Obama and the Democrats have indicated they intend to press their advantage.

Whatever side of the political aisle you fall on, that spells one thing: opportunity.

It's an opportunity for the agencies and firms that traditionally deal with such advertising and lobbying efforts, but it's an opportunity too for more mainstream ad agencies.

With so many advocacy groups jumping into the fray, some might even be willing to bet on a branding shop to help them stand out from the crowd of bare-knuckle brawlers that typically duke it out in the space.

At the very least, agencies can keep some idle hands busy with pro bono work for a feel-good cause.

But this isn't -- and shouldn't be -- just about pro bono work. There are powerful players with substantial money fighting over some of these issues.

State and federal issue-ad spending could hit $800 million this year. That accounts only for TV. And that number is likely to go much higher if the administration makes a full-court press on health care.

That might not be the huge sum associated with the bigger corporate accounts. Such clients might not do much for long-term growth (then again, these issues aren't subject to bankruptcy). And we're certainly not suggesting agencies betray their values for a quick monetary gain.

But in such economic times as these, you can't really afford to turn your nose up at business that might plug some holes in your budget.

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