Throwing Popcorn at Dinosaurs

In a recent Wall Street Journal article  (subscription required), futurist* Faith Popcorn predicts that the ad agency business will be dead in five to eight years:

“I think (the ad industry is) heading to extinction. In five to eight years time you will see buyer’s ignoring advertising-which will cause many media agencies to scramble as they try to find an alternative income source.”

Faith Popcorn
Faith Popcorn

While her prediction seems a bit extreme to me (the ad biz will not be gone anytime soon—a disappointing thought for some of you), Ms. Popcorn’s statement does reflect an idea I embrace: the agency model is a highly inefficient dinosaur.

Are they on their way out?

Ad agencies (not the industry) are slowly on their way out. Companies continue to look for ways to control costs, and one sure fire method is to quit paying services firms for their bloated overhead (expensive office furniture, three martini lunches, heaters, etc.). Working as an independent professional copywriter, I am awed at the talent that exists in the “free agent” market. Companies are free to assemble their own project teams from the talent pool, cutting out the account executive and other needless overhead. Just pick your copywriter, your designer and your media buyer, each on his or her own merit. Not happy with one component of your team? No problem. Find another person. No agency review, no fighting a bureaucracy.

Do you agree?

I’m sure a lot of agency people vehemently disagree with my stance. They’ll talk about account planning, “team synergy” and the like. Of course, lots of agencies use independent pros anyway. Why do you need an agency to hire freelancers for you? Pick your own pros, assemble the team, and kick ass in the marketplace.

Is my position self-serving? Yep. But change is rocking every industry. Why should the ad biz be any different?

*Futurist? Faith makes big bucks as a “futurist?” I love this country.

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