It’s the end of the word as we know it, and I feel fine

Ian Perrin, chief accelerator at Speed, calls bullshit on the negative headlines about the advertising industry and agency landscape. If this is the end of the world, he says 'bring it on'.

They often say that countries can talk themselves into a recession; and the same can be said about the advertising business. Based on the commentary I have read over the past few months, we are doing just that. Never in my career have I read so many opinion pieces, statements, and commentary about the dire state of advertising, and of course, agencies.

Consultancy firms are taking our jobs, multi-national agency groups are dinosaurs, media agencies are all crooks, digital agencies are myopic, and independents don’t have the scale or data to compete.

End of the world? Bring it on

I know drama and hyperbole drive clicks, but quite frankly, what a load of shit. If this is the end of the world, then bring it on, because I’m not sure we’ve ever had it so good. Be that structurally, commercially or culturally.

Structurally, we are changing our models to give marketers an array of different solutions. They can choose anything from a multinational, full-service model to a group of independent specialists, or vice versa. They can buy a group model, a lead agency model, or use a consultancy to help power an in-house solution. And if that’s not enough, they can select from myriad of management consultant firms, who all have very different offers. That’s a pretty appetising menu from clients to choose from, and for agency people to work for.

Commercially, this leads to better opportunities as well.

Shit agencies will always complain about their margins, but good ones are finding opportunities in an increasingly complex landscape. They have identified that smart business leaders understand competitive advantage, and find ways to deliver it. Be that in the better utilisation of data, automating process, creative innovation or smarter media planning. The truth is, you will always find clients who are prepared to pay well, if you are demonstrably better than everyone else.

Culturally, agencies have made giant strides in making sure they provide safe, diverse and enjoyable places to work. Training budgets are higher than in most industries, human resource capabilities are incredibly advanced and the number of women in senior roles is, thankfully, changing quickly. Six years ago, there were no female CEOs running large media agencies. Now we have Aimee Buchanan, Nickie Scriven, Sue Squillace, Fiona Johnston, Melissa Fein, Katie Rigg-Smith, and countless others breaking that once impenetrable glass ceiling. With all this happening, it’s no wonder agencies perform well in the ranking of top 100 places to work in Australia.

This isn’t to say we don’t have problems to overcome. Multi-national networks must redefine their purpose and operating model, creative agencies must better value their offer, media agencies must learn the true value of honesty, and we can all do more to lighten the workload of our junior staff members.

But these will all become easier if we quit the negative talk, and start talking up the incredible industry we work in.

Ian Perrin is chief accelerator of Speed 


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