The Gift No One Wants

Or, When Did 'Legacy' Become a Dirty Word?

By Published on .

Hopefully this is a coherent thought. After my first full night at the Cannes festival, consisting (as these things do) of too much alcohol and too little sleep, I'm no longer the best judge of my own coherence. But it occurs to me this morning that legacy used to be a word that inspired pride. It was something you wanted to pass down. Heritage had value, and traditions mattered.

But somewhere along the way, legacy became a bad word in our business, a concept everyone from newspaper publishers to ad agencies to package-goods marketers seems to want to distance themselves from.

One dictionary definition of legacy is, "Something handed down from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past." Another I found online pertains to the computer industry, but is scarily applicable to the ad world: "Of or pertaining to old or outdated [systems] that, while still functional do not work well with up-to-date systems."

The challenge we face is to be sure that we preserve the values that still matter, and pass them along even as we give ourselves permission to destroy legacy models.

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