Thursday, April 10, 2008

5339: New Views From The Kids’ Table.

The column above was published in the latest issue of Advertising Age, as well as the Small Agency Diary at

Nancy Kramer, founder and CEO of Resource Interactive in Columbus, Ohio, makes the standard pitch for “below-the-line” enterprises to receive professional respect from the traditional advertising agencies and clients too. Kramer’s frustrations are shared by anyone who has ever had to bow behind the majority rulers—a familiar spot for minority shops. Yet it’s unlikely her viewpoint will inspire change. In addition to the traditional ad agencies’ iron grip on budgetary and political control, the clients still diss the smaller partners. As Kramer reveals, even the digital shops rate second-class citizenship, despite the exploding importance of interactive marketing.

However, this essay will not rehash the same gripes. Rather, the goal is to present a few observations on the state of the union. Or the disunion.

There was a time when the traditional ad agencies were in command. Or at least they created the illusion of wielding the main power. But through the years, things have dramatically altered.

The “below-the-line” shops continued to develop in their respective areas of expertise. Additionally, because most of these shops were already staffed with multitasking workers wearing multiple hats, the troops were better equipped to respond to the industry’s total downsizing.

It’s been quite different with the traditional ad agencies. The bloated, old school inhabitants kept farming out the heavy lifting to vendors or in-house studio grunts. Hell, the art directors rarely mounted their own layouts onto foamcore. The big agency employees failed to speed up in the accelerated arena. Plus, they appear to be moving backwards in regards to awareness of popular culture and technological advancements.

Now “below-the-line” partners are witnessing a new sight from the kids’ table. It’s like watching an elderly, drunken uncle show up for the family gathering. The traditionalists stumble, stammer and unveil concepts that are hackneyed garbage—often barfing all over everyone in attendance. It’s embarrassing to be a spectator. These guys aren’t ignoring the smaller partners for sinister reasons. They simply don’t have their shit together. Period.

Back in the day, the traditional ad agencies’ arrogance was a pain in the ass to accept. But assuming a totem pole position under today’s Otis Campbell and Foster Brooks is downright insulting.


Anonymous said...


Nice essay. Although, the disrespect I think comes from "sinister reasons" AND "they don't have their shit together."

One thing I've noticed over the years is how much more respect clients are giving to those who can actually help them achieve their business objectives. So, one can work below-the-line and still come out on top. Happens everyday.

HighJive said...

The truth is, “below-the-line” efforts are probably making far more professional contributions than mainline efforts. But for some reasons—including sinister politicking—they continue to not receive proper respect in the corporate hierarchy.

runawaytruck said...

The risk of sharing is just too close to the core of agency survival. It cracks the door to opportunist advances. "Yeah JR, ours are better, why don't we just staff up and handle the whole thing?" As much at we would like to be altruistic...Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.