Nov 29

When BusinessWeek suggests you’re irrelevant, it’s time to go to plan B

The current BusinessWeek cover asks a question I’ve been wondering about for some time: ‘Is Madison  Avenue racing towards irrelevance? I’d say so.Business_2

Traditional advertising is in a freefall as documented by the BW article. Growth has slowed, profits are down and clients are going elsewhere for solutions. Why? Because the big ad shops like Saatchi, which is the focus of BWs profile, simply aren’t retrofitting their basic model fast enough to keep up with rapidly-changing consumer buying patterns.

Saatchi’s recent campaign for JC Penney is cited as a textbook example of advertising’s growing irrelevance. Despite crafting a campaign that dazzled the ad industry and will, no doubt, win countless Gold Lions at Cannes, the effort did absolutely nothing for sales. Nothing. Why? Because consumers have far too many other sources of information today and don’t have the time for, or trust in, advertising.

BW says direct mail, media buying shops and interactive agencies are the big beneficiaries of advertising’s decline. And they are. But, so too, is PR. From everything I see and read, more and more marketers ‘get’ PR and understand its far more powerful and credible strategies for connecting with fickle, web 2.0-enabled consumers.

So, what’s a poor ad man to do? BW says Saatchi’s CEO Kevin Roberts is contemplating everything from ‘green communications’ to ‘retail design consulting.’ Ouch. How do you spell desperation?

PR has long been seen as advertising’s poor stepsister. So, it’s hard to shed many tears for all the high and mighty creative geniuses whose ‘breakthrough’ work simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Maybe some of them can find jobs in direct mail, interactive or, gasp, even PR?