Traditional Advertising Professionals Have a Right to Be “Mad Men”

Think you’ve got it tough? Try working for a traditional advertising agency. Sure, Detroit is toxic and the publishing sector has been a graveyard for some time, but how’d you like to ply your trade in an industry that’s just now waking up to find itself totally outdated and in need of a complete  and immediate overhaul? Now, imagine making that overhaul in the midst of the worst economy in decades.

The traditional advertising model (i.e. the 30-second TV spot, the full-page print advertisement and the 15 percent agency commission) is dead. Digital killed it. And, cost-conscious marketers are yanking millions, if not billions, of dollars out of traditional advertising and reallocating the cash to digital, word-of-mouth and public relations.

So, it came as no surprise to see an Adweek article entitled, "Ad Talent May Head Elsewhere.” Ah, but where?

I heard one industry analyst predict each of the Big Three advertising holding companies will lay off 30,000 employees this year. And, I attended a meeting just last week in which the client’s entire ad agency account team had been wiped out as part of a 5,000 person downsizing. Ouch!

These are jobs that will never be replaced. To make matters worse, though, these downsized souls possess talents that no other sector really wants or needs. Yes, a few may land at technology companies in search of creative talent and some may opt for professional services firms looking for the same sort of person. But, those gigs are few and far between. What will the hundreds of thousands of account managers, copywriters and media planners do? The Adweek article suggests architectural firms as a possible employment source. But, how much money is being spent on new construction these days? Or, advertising types could look overseas to Asia and Latin America, except those economies are tanking now as well.

So, what does a traditional advertising agency professional do? Beats me. But, it sure does give a whole new meaning to Mad Men.

2 thoughts on “Traditional Advertising Professionals Have a Right to Be “Mad Men”

  1. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, Michael. But, I think you’re dead wrong on this one. Account managers and media buyers in particular will be hard pressed to find any industry interested in their skills, their salaries or their superior attitudes.

  2. Look, being outplaced from a declining industry – combined with the emotional impact of a layoff – will hit traditional ad agency professionals hard. And if they’re looking for the identical jobs in similar firms that are growing and hiring, they’re lucky or dreaming. But…this is a populace with skill sets in corporate client relationships, business development, consumer marketing, media insights – I could go on. These skill sets can apply to different industries. They can inspire new business models. Anyone in these shoes, as sore wounds heal (and that can take time), should look not just to the industry where they worked, but to the assets they have built, and rethink how they can add value to global industry. Yes the world of Mad Men is really fun and I for one will miss it. But there’s a big world beyond that – and it may pay larger dividendes.