Putting Bogusky–And The Ad Industry–On The Couch

Frankly, I think too many people are psychoanalyzing Alex Bogusky’s decision to leave CP+B. Dude’s got enough money to do whatever he wants to in life–simple as that. If he wants to make the world a better place in some way, going outside the marketing framework of MDC is probably necessary.
But Warren Berger, writing in Adweek suspects there’s something more going on in the creative community these days:

There are lots of tough questions companies must confront in dealing with a consumer who’s more engaged, more informed and more concerned with social issues than ever before. Among those questions: What does the company stand for? What does it believe? How does it make its products and treat its employees? Is it being straight with us in its ads? All of these points are part of the larger conversation people are now having about brands.
One of the new roles for ad agencies may be to help clients figure out how to have these expanded, deeper conversations with the public and come out looking good. It’s harder and more complicated than just doing one-way messaging in the form of clever 30-second commercials. Helping client companies transition into this new era of accountability and responsibility may require that the agency be willing to step up and ask a client some of those tough questions cited above — and then help that client figure out how best to address these issues in a way that doesn’t come off as empty spin.

I can understand the sentiment of the first paragraph, but it sounds to me like Berger is projecting a little too much. Some consumers can, and do, find out more about companies and their business practices, but the vast majority don’t. For the most part, we don’t know who makes our clothes, our electronics, and our food–and most of us would be startled to learn the truth. It’s easier to not get worked up about those issues, and most corporations know that.
The second paragraph, however, I can get behind. It feels a little like what I wrote on Talent Zoo last week. Ad agencies can and should become more involved in a client’s business and can potentially do it to promote the greater good, but in this economy the bottom line trumps all. Few agency managers will take the risks needed to push a client into uncomfortable territory.
There will always be people who decide advertising, or working in a big agency, isn’t their scene. For every high-profile advertising person who leaves the business, there are plenty who want his/her position. The machine keeps going.



About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.