Who’s for fighting?

March 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

I spent two and a half days at the 4As Media Conference in New Orleans and I’m trying to think how to summarize the event. For help I’ve wandered over to AdAge.com and checked the other usual industry news sources and, well, there’s nothing much being said. MediaPost has a report about the Social Networking panel. Jonah Bloom, Editor of Ad Age, wraps-up with a 3 minute Ad Age video that reports everyone who attended the Media Conference was anxious. The pervasive mood of the place was gloomy. Business is tough.

The mood came across while I was there. But, I’m trying to think of what happened at the event that tells me what, as an industry, we’re working on now that it’s over. No one seems to have much to say about that today.

What are we working on? Nothing about that anywhere, including the 4A’s web site, where I could find nary a scratch on the conference. The event itself has been purged from the list of events. It’s like it didn’t happen. If you dig around you can find a summary of last year’s conference, so perhaps this year’s summary is on its way.

I recall that Marc Goldstein, North American CEO of GroupM, told attendees that we must have hope. And, beyond that, he said we must take stock in our creative energy and ability to solve customers problems in new and important ways. He gave three pretty good examples of the sort of creative power he was talking about. Marc was clear, though, there are no easy answers and – worse – there is no one right now likely to lead us out of our problems. The advertising world does not have its version of Barack Obama to tell us, Yes We Can. Still, he points out, we must.

The wrap-up to the session on Friday featured a panel of principals from four leading media buying companies. Maria Luisa Francoli, global CEO of MPG, Irwin Gottlieb, global CEO of GroupM, Page Thompson, North American CEO of Omnicom and Jerry Buhlman, CEO of Aegis came on last to deliver the unvarnished view from the top. As it turns out, the unvarnished view from the top looks like it does from the bottom - i.e. more for less is required. More accountability, more measure-ability, more affordability. The view hasn’t really changed much since the economy was growing hand over wallet. Row harder. The Procurement Officer wants to go water skiing.

So, now what? Who was it that said we must endeavour to persevere? It wasn’t someone with a business plan. Media planners and buyers have been endeavouring furiously, nights and weekends, with tighter deadlines, less access to the strategic and creative vision of their clients and thanks to cable, satellite and the Internet more access to more media choices more beneficial to their customers than ever before. Under the circumstances, greater perseverance will lead them, and us, no where.

Only citizenry besieged by rockets from the sky can be called upon to persevere and, then, only if they know that someone, somewhere is fighting for them. And I don’t know…it’s awfully quiet out there.

Who’s for fighting?

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