I hear tell of a new kind of ad agency - one that strips away the layers of overhead and leaves behind just the personnel who create, hands-on, the product: the planners, the writers and designers and the producers. In my mind that sounds something like the Utopian ideal I dreamed of in the early nineties when I first hung out my own shingle.
I had begun to feel that layers of middle management had little real function than to create paperwork - writing call reports that clients either didn't want or wouldn't read. The reason for their existance was because they exisited. At one point I thought it was because someone had to manage the 'relationship' with the clients - be there to take them to lunch - that kind of thing. I began to realise that client's had less and less time to spend idling away in restaurants. A new generation of marketing management had arrived who were expected to accomplish much more with fewer and fewer resources. The trappings of agency life had less appeal and the reliance on the agency for marketing advice diminished with the rise of business schools who minted marketing degrees faster than you could say "What is the special of the day and could I have an un-oaked chardonnay?" That was post '87 - the stock market collapse caused large rifts in the assumptions agency people had made about life in the advertising business. Then there was the arrival of the Macintosh and another quiet hands-on revolution began (but that is another story).
The new agency seems to have arrived at another cross-roads of economic shift and technological change. A small cadre of talent can now produce so much more than the infrastructure heavy advertising agency (which is leaner and meaner than before - but only in the way that a Minke whale is lean and mean, compared to an Orca).
I watched the launch of the latest Adobe Creative Suite 4 on the web the other day. The capability to integrate graphics, motion graphics, to edit video and distribute it all seamlessly in broadcast quality from a desktop (or laptop) computer is astounding. The workflow is simple and quick. A single creative could conceive, create and distribute a complex concept with the help of just coffee and a feww calories.
Approval caan happen online, billing can be automatically monitored. The only meetings that need to take place can be to discuss the work - via Skype (because the client and creator might reside on separate continents).
Though the HP commercial above could have been created by a small team (not saying it was - it was Goodby Siverstein & Partners (average age 28)
It is a wonderful prospect. But what will happen to the suits? They will be reabsorbed into the economy, perhaps as gigolos or stop/go guys on the highway - McDonalds seem to always be hiring.