The Great Divide. Who Owns the Future of Advertising?


I have had a great ride in the agency world.  My first agency job was working on the McDonald’s account at Needham Harper and Steers in Toronto.  Then I worked for JWT in Toronto and Chicago for ten years and great places after that. I know the agency side of the street. There were 700 people at JWT Chicago when I worked there.  That office which was founded in 1891 closed in 2009.

I have been lucky and have conducted the Jenny Craig, Villeroy & Boch, and Raley’s Supermarkets agency searches and reviews for a number of smaller clients so I have seen that side of the street as well.  I have heard the client whispers, listened to their observations and published their perspectives in blogs like Why Agencies don’t want New Business.

Here is my take on what I see out there.  Advertising, public relations and digital agencies all hide in the comfort of their own silos and haven’t spent a lot of time in their peer worlds.  I seldom meet people at or in advertising or digital firms at PRSA conferences for instance.  There are exceptions but it’s rare in my opinion.

So if you were a client what type of marketing firm would you chose to move your business ahead?

Would you choose an integrated marketing agency who says they can do it all? I met with a CEO of a regional company who was skeptical of that brand promise and I agree. I think I first heard of the benefits of integrated marketing when disco was cool.  It is an old promise.

I know many digital agencies that have been around for fifteen years now.  Say it isn’t so but it is true.  The internet is older than many of your kids.  Nobody has ever heard of many of these digital firms in your market even though they may have great clients and are very capable in their field of expertise.  They know wireframes, SEO, and lots of good stuff.  Ask them what a GRP is and they will be lost.  Their discovery process if you are a client is learning about what you have forgotten. The majority of their people are incredibly smart but few are client facing. They started in the basement mixing up the medicine.

Advertising agencies are great at marketing their clients in the traditional ways.  They are not as strong in the digital space as their stand alone digital competitors. They are often right that the internet hasn’t created many CPG brands as the traditional advertising but they don’t have an answer about the future and where the world is going. Where would you tell your kids to work?

Public Relations firms are great at publicity and have various degrees of social media prominence.  Brand exposure yes.  Branding expertise for a client no. If Dan Draper was pitching against a PR firm he would probably end his pitch with a comment like “Public Relations is like pissing in a blue suit.  You get a warm feeling but you don’t really see it.”

This is the great marketing divide in my opinion.  I have great friends in every silo.  All have their place, all have their solutions but gaps of expertise persist.  None of them are best of class across the spectrum of a client’s needs.

Multinationals say they provide the solution but can you afford the solution and can they respond entrepreneurially?

So how do you win today if you run an agency?  I would start by being small, resourceful, and incredibility well networked to provide any marketing resource your client needs. Identify an area of expertise and market yourself aggressively around that thought leadership.  Network with partners in other practice areas that you can bring to the table and truly provide the best of breed every day but on a virtual basis as needed.

Hank Blank works with advertising, public relations and digital agencies to help them win new business and rise above the crowd.   He also helps clients find the best resources to accelerate their growth.  You can find Hank easily by just doing a Google search on Hank Blank.  He will own the first page. Google your firm and see what you own.  If you want some skin in the Google Game send Hank an e mail

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank


Watch his video on YouTube on How to Rise Above the Crowd.


2 thoughts on “The Great Divide. Who Owns the Future of Advertising?

  1. I enjoy reading your articles — you are so honest about what’s going on out there! The entire world of advertising and public relations has shifted like tectonic plates — and most of the industry hasn’t even noticed.

    Sure, it can be time-consuming to keep up with changes that seem to occur on an hourly basis, but it has to be done. Like the shark that has to keep moving, we have to keep moving and adapting — and the very best have to anticipate.

    It’s making our jobs harder, but also more exciting!

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