For those of you who aren't aware, JWT, formerly J. Walter Thompson, is one of the formerly great advertising agencies of the 20th century, and it announced on Friday that its Chicago office, a shadow of its once great self, would be shuttered in the near future, with their clients being afforded the "opportunity" to work with the New York office where the strategy of ruining the agency is masterminded.
A sad day? We disagree. The industry in general, and JWT in particular, is reaping what they have sown. The industry failed to follow its own advice or to stand for the values and business goals it espoused, to wit:
- Building strong brands: J. Walter Thompson becomes JWT. Ogilvy & Mather becomes Ogilvy. BBDO Chicago becomes "Energy." Needham Harper & Steers and countless others go away entirely. Agency networks create "conflict agencies" with new names -- effectively admitting that their brands are meaningless, and rendering the differentiation between and among the original agencies irrelevant.
- Entitling clients to charge a premium price for an otherwise parity product: The industry ate itself with a de facto price war that followed the M&A boom of the 1980s and 1990s, so anxious to find or keep new business (and service its debt) that it devalued its own product and destroyed its own economic model.
- Hiring smart people who could help the client's business: The upshot of the price war was an end to the ability to attract or retain smart people. The agencies of today have a group of retreads at the top and a group of bouncy 25 year-olds who "like to work with people" working for them. The era of David Ogilvy's "gentlemen with brains" is long past.
- Keeping up with new trends: Big agencies today are still wed to :30 and :15 television and full page spread print. They are fabulously weak in emerging media, web and interactive, and the other media trends that are rendering television and magazines (and especially newspapers) largely obsolete. They continue to focus on what they know rather than what their clients want and need.
Ogilvy's website has no traces of the old line Ogilvy beyond their trademark red. No cash register. No commitment to sales. In fact, their What We Do section notes "We work not for ourselves, not for the company, not even for the client. We work for Brands."
Agencies work for clients who need profitable sales to survive. Strong brands are necessary but not sufficient. Ogilvy used to stand for making the cash register ring. Their mandate should be building brands and SELLING PRODUCT. Someone forgot about that part.
The self-indulgent "creative" shitheads at the top have forgotten that advertising is about commerce, not art, and have rendered most of the old line agencies, once giants, shadows of themselves, and likely on the same path as JWT Chicago.
Mismanaged businesses and industries don't deserve to survive. No tears should be shed for stupidity, intellectual sloppiness, and the fallout thereof.
"We sell. Or else." was a brilliant reminder of what agencies should stand for. We see now what "Or else." really means.