Mastering Any Discipline Is A Great Beginning

Writing in Ad Age, Reuben Steiger is CEO of Millions of Us reflects on why the traditional agencies failed to swoop in on the digital planet, making it their own, ten years ago.

1. Traditional agencies were in the process of distancing themselves from production work.
2. The web looked crummy. Ad agencies are about beautiful work that wins awards. Bad fit.
3. It kind of was rocket science: At least from the agencies’ perspective. Tech was critical to success, and they were primarily creative organizations.

This jog down memory lane is worth revisiting because it’s still an issue. Clients don’t know who they can trust to lead now, the Mad Men or the digerati.
I love Steiger’s second point above. The Web is indeed a huge mess. I understand we’ve dressed it up in places, and that engineers see poetry in code. But I still like his point. You can’t hold a well done Web site in your hands like you can a double truck in Rolling Stone. It’s a different kind of satisfaction, and one that’s ever elusive, since Web sites are not static like TV, radio, outdoor, print and POS. Web sites are alive, so when you give birth to one, you become like a parent, always care taking the new baby. In other words, it’s totally foreign to people born and bred in Adlandia.
Granted, many Adlandians are fluent in this new “second language” today. Some of us even dream in html. That’s when you know it’s in there, when you become a cyborg.
This is what I see in the tea leaves…Adlandians will continue to morph into cyborg marketing machines and will retain their leadership roles with clients, because the trick is to walk between worlds. With the media landscape we live on today, specialists might get you through the mountains in Springtime but brands need someone to take them on the whole journey. That someone ties it all together. That someone is a campaigner.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.