Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Only consolidation can save us....part 2

Came across this in my files. A letter from David Ogilvy to a client 35yrs ago addressing the pro's and cons of global alignment.


Only consolidation can save us....part 1

When Sir M was in town for the Spikes he was on stage asking for questions to be emailed to him. He didn't get round to answering mine.

The gist of my question was why hasn't our industry consolidated more? 

Look at many of our clients. Much of the time, consolidation has reduced their categories to 3/4 big players and a handful of niche ones supplying specialist consumers. 

In the computer category - Dell, Lenovo, HP, Acer and Apple.
In the mobile phone category - Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Apple, LG and Motorola
In the Accountancy category - The Big 4
In the toothpaste category - Colgate, Crest, Aquafresh,  Oral-B, Tom's of Maine, Darlie

I'm sure there's many exceptions to this rule, but in my mind they tend to be in categories where consumers actively demand greater choice - candy, drinks, food, cars etc.

So, back to my question. Why hasn't our industry consolidated more?

Our industry did undergo massive consolidation a decade or so back, but only at a holding company level - from dozens of brands to 4 or 5 (WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic, Publicis, Havas). 

But this wasn't really consolidation, it was merely conglomeration. Of course, some brands died as a result (DMB&M, BSB, Ayer etc.) but the vast majority of them remain today.

So, my hypothesis is that the industry can't sustain this many agency brands and if we are to get back to a more acceptable level of remuneration we need fewer brands with more business and a greater concentration of talent. 

Right now, clients have a dizzying choice of agencies who are willing to cut costs and anything else that gets them the project (and IT IS increasingly just a project). I don't blame clients, it's only natural, and besides, they have their own issues to deal with.

Do the holding companies really need so many mainline adverting brands, and can those brands realistically sustain themselves over the long term? Does it make sense for a WPP or an Interpublic to have 10+ offices in each city they operate in? I don't think so.

The response I usually get when I ask this is "We have no choice, we can't consolidate because of client conflict...". 

They are right. 

This, in my opinion, is at the heart of what needs to change.

If the issue of 'client conflict' were removed, the door would be open to real consolidation in the industry.  This could lead to the kinds economies of scale that would allow the remaining agencies to HIRE MORE, attract young talent (vs. other categories to whom we lose graduate talent - like banks & law firms), hire the best and pay them accordingly, TRAIN the rest, satisfy shareholders and the City and put some of the pride back into our great industry (I recall a story that advertising execs ranked somewhere between traffic wardens and second hand car salesmen in a recent study - although Mad Men has likely pushed us up or down on that scale depending on your perspective). 

But, to do this would mean convincing clients that 'client confidentiality' is really possible. And why not?  Let's face it, Bain, McKinsey, Accenture, the Banks and many other service industries manage - and some clients even see it as an advantage (McKinsey clients for example). The notion that, because you have a bunch of people working on a Coca-Cola brand in your office, a group of totally autonomous people can't be thinking about a mineral water, seems outdated and outmoded. 

One other point in support of my premise is that it's hardly like 'confidentiality' is the titanium clad thing that it used to be; with clients moving from competitor to competitor with increasing speed (what's a marketing director's average length of tenure these days? 18 months, less?) and agency revolving doors are revolving as fast as ever they have there's a veritable merry-go-round of illegitimate information and knowledge that circulating around.

I've witnessed agencies chasing their tails to try to hit increasingly difficult to achieve numbers; more often that not, chopping their tails off in the process. Clients playing one agency off against the other to drive down costs. The increasing role of procurement. Contracts coming down to auctions between agency CFO's - one a few years back being realtime online! This doesn't strike me as a situation that, in the long run, really benefits clients; let alone agencies.  It stretches agency teams, often resulting in sub-standard work, hampers agency's ability to attract the best new talent and can often disuades an agency from telling clients what they really need to hear. All dangerous stuff.

Phew, that's a load off my mind. I can get back to thinking about something else now.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Political correctness gone mad, racial profiling or just stupid?

I'm a big fan of Juan Williams  - although I wish he'd lay off appearing on the Fox Network.

That said, his comment about being scared when he sees muslims in their 'garb' when he's boarding a plane did not show his best side.

What's alarming is less what he said and more what the right said in response; that this is an example of political correctness gone mad and an affront to freedom of speech. A very Fox News spin.

Surely if there's an affront here it's to the 'garbed up' people on the plane who's freedom of speech (in this case 'speech' through what they're wearing) as well as freedom of religion was being eroded.

Juan Williams has a right to feel scared on any plane he chooses for whatever reason he feels, that's his unassailable right. Arguably, he also has the right to tell people that he felt/feels that way. As a political analyst it was a slightly silly thing to do on Fox News but, in my opinion, not really a firing offense.

I don't think it's about political correctness or freedom of speech, I think it's something closer to the kind of christian family values that the likes of Fox talk about endlessly; respect, tolerance, understanding and a live and let live attitude.

My prescription for greater tolerance and understanding is to get to at least page five of this website...

Thanks Sima and Sophina for posting this link....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

US confirms biggest arms deal ever - $60 billion to Saudi Arabia...

So, building an Islamic cultural centre in downtown manhattan (to replace the one there for 30yrs) funded by a shady Saudi businessman (Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal - except he's not a shady businessman unless you call being the second largest shareholder in Murdoch's NewsCorp being shady...) is an outrage? 

But selling $60 billion worth of weapons technology to the Saudi govt. isn't something of an outrage?

I understand that there's a desire to prop up (or at least aid) the Saudi regime against fundamentalists, but haven't we learnt that f-15s and attack helicopters aren't the answer when it comes to asymmetric warfare ? 

If this is a warning shot to Iran, maybe it'll work. One thing it certainly is is another great recruitment tool for Islamic fundamentalists as it paints the Saudi Royal Family as a pseudo-puppet of the US government - funny, I thought we were their puppets!

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but you don't have to watch too many episodes of The West Wing to realize the best time to drop a news story like this is in the middle of something bigger and louder....Wikileaks anyone?

Friday, October 22, 2010

John Stewart nails the difference between Republicans and Democrats...

"Republicans love America but seem to hate 50% of the people who live there and Democrats love American but just somehow wish it were a different country..."

The Galt Peters projection

If you're interested in how big continents really are relative to each other, try going by the Galt Peters projection.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Next growth markets are in Africa...

Interesting article in WSJ about the opportunities presented by Africa. Sadly the tone set by Martin Sorrell and Richard Pinder in the article is very much like Alex the lion in Madagascar who sees every animal around him as a juicy steak. How big can a holding company get before it get before it gets bad...oh, I think we already know that.

Innovation isn't big things, it's small things - just more of them

I'd rather my beer brand did this than produce a blight on the culture with another also-ran advertising campaign...brands should be useful and this small indent beneath the ring pull is just that...especially after you've had a couple of their tasty beverages...

Credit Card innovation

An interesting article about what, in many ways, is a commodity business - CC transactions. One good thing about having little difference between you and a competitor is it forces innovation - or hastens death if you don't!  Some of my previous clients would do well to think about that - you know who you are!!!

RIP the BBC World Service

No longer funded by the Foreign Office, the BBC World Service is destined to become middle of the road news nonsense like BBC World....terrible shame....

Good piece from the Guardian...

Journalist a very BBC sort of a way