Is the ad agency dead?

October 16, 2018

For years the epitome of the marketing field was the agency — the golden, stars in your eyes, ad agency. This hasn’t changed for a very long time.

Mathew Brady: The Camera Is the Eye of History (Americans the Spirit of a Nation): Don Nardo: 9780766030237: Amazon.com: Books

And the reason being, is the recipe that was invented for the modern agency by Matthew Brady in 1866 was something extraordinary and different. Brady offered “photographs, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes.” His ads were the first whose typeface and fonts were distinct from the text of the publication and from that of other advertisements found at that time.

Once the Global Advertising Model took over things would never be the same. Globalization of advertising originates in earlier days of the twentieth century. American advertising agencies began the process of opening overseas offices before the two World Wars and accelerated their globalization throughout the latter part of the twentieth century.

My all time favourite agency when growing up was Ogilvy & Mather (est. 1948). They set the standard in the beginning, in my opinion, for how an agency created truly revolutionary ad’s for clients.


Their first major contract was Guinness, and in 1950 the unveiled this amazing advert porn for the perfect guide to Oysters for Guinness.

The advertisement was successful, and several other pairing guides, including birds and cheeses, followed it.
This was the start of something amazing. As David Ogilvy would always say: “Do not … address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter on behalf of your client.”

Now — is the agency formula actually dead?

Yes & No in my opinion.

Yes, because the way clients & campaigns were treated have become more personal thanks to boutique agencies. Nothing is better than sitting down with your client with the well selected team of Copywriters & Designers on your side and pitch a relationship rather than a sale.

And No, because the core of an agency is, and always will be, to market things to customers who didn’t know they wanted it in the first place. This entertaining game of cat & mouse we as marketers play to understand our clients and their customers makes us outside thinkers. It makes us feel the rush of something that not many people get.

Nothing beats a great proposal, a great idea, a great story!