[MEDIA] Advertising doesn’t work as well as it used to work

By Michael Wolff


Not too long ago, I had lunch with the head of a large digital advertising agency — owned by a larger traditional agency, in turn owned by a much larger holding company — who offered the following cryptic explanation for the way his firm did its job:

“We don’t do story. We facilitate the handshake between buyer and seller.”

In this new world, he was saying, the craft of advertising, of explaining the virtues of a product and making it seem exceptional and therefore creating desire for it, was significantly less important than streamlining how a customer completes a transaction.

Cold, I thought. But modern.

Then recently a media consultant I know who is called in by big agencies to help creative teams with the problem of ever-increasing consumer disengagement observed that even in the meeting-obsessed business world, ad agencies stand out. Nothing is done or decided, in his experience, without large numbers of people sitting in a room. Hardly anyone even writes memos anymore. When they do, it’s done as a Powerpoint deck — symbols instead of sentences.


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