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The Future Of Advertising Is A Creative Leader On Top, Not MBAs Or Financial Executives

The Future Of Advertising Is A Creative Leader On Top, Not MBAs Or Financial Executives

Just imagine a professional wrestler as editor of The New York Times or a package designer as head of Goldman Sachs. Far-fetched? But that’s exactly what happens in advertising. The people on the top never wrote a tagline, or produced an ad.

When J. Walter Thompson founded the first modern agency in 1868, he started as a salesman of newspaper ads. He soon realized that, to boost ad sales, he should offer creative services to potential advertisers: and, thus, the first “agency” was formed. For the next 100 years “creatives” would be running the best agencies, along with that of setting the agenda and vision – legends like Rubicam, Burnett, Ogilvy and Bernbach. 

However, the consolidation of the advertising industry by a bunch of financial executives and the creation of the holding companies in the Eighties meant a shift in philosophy. While most creative leaders over the years were also excellent businessmen, they were viewed by holding company czars as risky and emotional “artists.”

To mitigate what they perceived as a problem they brought in hordes of pencil-pushing MBAs to the business. That created layers of middle management that slowed down innovation and drove creativity away. The result was the deterioration of the quality of the advertising over time. Legacy agencies now have a ratio of 60-40 MBAs to creatives, as agencies became less productive and inefficient, according to our proprietary data. 

In most advertising agencies, the creative team now takes its direction, ultimately, from a chief executive with a background in business or finance or client services – in other words, someone who has not write a line of copy ever, in their lives, and who is not familiar with how their company’s products are invented. 

“Creative” is not a department. It’s permeates everything between the agency

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