Reading Agencies By Their Cover Is Bad Form

Ad Age is running another article about digital agencies being ready to lead, but the article isn’t all that interesting. What is interesting is the first comment on the article. It’s from Josh Levine of Rebel Industries.
Here’s a clip:

One of my favorite quotes is from Anne Busquet, former CEO of IAC and American Express, which goes “It’s not the age of the internet, it’s the age of customer control.” Yet the debate rages on amongst you BIG ADVERTISING types about whether the internet guys or the TV guys get to be in charge. Guess what: none of you is in charge. Nor should you be.
So where are the customer control shops? Right here, for one. I built my company on the idea proposed by Sergio Zyman in The End of Advertising As We Know It, that marketers need to accept the responsibility for driving strategy themselves, instead of abdicating that leadership to their agencies. Then, they should surround themselves with experts who can help them develop various parts of their brands.

I agree that it’s not about digital versus traditional. Not at all. But I differ with Levine (and Zyman) regarding the notion that clients are any more prepared to lead strategically, than their agency partners. Perhaps they should be, but that doesn’t mean they are.
I don’t think there is any one reliable model today. However, there are reliable people. Some work at traditional agencies, others work in Interactive agencies and others still can be found in client companies. To say nothing of design shops, experiential shops, one-person consultancies and so on.



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.