That Which Deserves To Live, Lives

October 29, 2007 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

On reading his obituary, Mark Twain replied, “The report of my death is somewhat exaggerated.”

Every week, it seems, someone is driving another nail in the coffin of traditional advertising. Newspapers? Dead. Television? Dying. Advertising and marketing as we know it? Great as a backdrop for a show like AMC’s summer hit “Mad Men,” but a guaranteed head-in-the-sand strategy for any agency wanting to be in business this time next month.

The thing is, that’s only part of the story. Like Twain’s obituary, the imminent death of traditional agencies is, in my opinion, somewhat exaggerated. The death of some traditional media vehicles? Perhaps. But to suggest traditional agencies are going down the tubes is alarmist and reactionary. And here’s why.

Any great agency, be it traditional, interactive, or some blend of the two, is successful because, and only because, it has great ideas. Look at Bill Bernbach’s DDB, Wieden, Goodby, Fallon, Martin, Crispin Porter. They’re not considered the best agencies in the world because of the media vehicles they use, but rather, for the ideas they filled those vehicles with.

Moving forward, agencies will continue defining themselves by the ideas they produce. And yes, moving forward, many, if not the majority of those ideas, will and should be digital and interactive. But whatever they are, they will have to be smart. They will have to be strategic. And they will have to make a connection. That connection might come in an ad or on an iPhone. It might come in a blog, on a billboard, or on your Facebook page. But it will come. And not just from digital specialty agencies.

The end of a legendary 1915 Cadillac ad states it perfectly: “If the leader truly leads, he remains—the leader. Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live—lives.”

Great agencies always find a way to live. That’s what makes them great.


Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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