What I’ve Learned (So Far) From Stuart Elliott
When I first joined the Direct Marketing Association public relations team in 1988, Stuart Elliott had just left Advertising Age to join USA Today, covering the ad business there. Then in 1991, he took over the ad column, and the advertising business beat, at The New York Times. In December 2014, after 23-plus years, he chose to depart the Gray Lady. His last column ran December 18.
The Times continues to cover advertising, but the column exists no more.
This week, I had the opportunity to listen to Stuart speak with George Wiedemann, chief executive officer of UMarketing, about the changes that have transformed advertising in the last 25 years. As disruption—digital, recessions, consolidations, consumer empowerment—has been one rule that has governed Madison Avenue (in itself an anachronism), there also is resilience.
Some of Stuart's observations (these are not direct quotes)...
Madison Avenue may have been late in leading the conversation with clients on digital, social, mobile strategy and such, but many industries—outside of Silicon Valley—never foresaw the new business models, either. We (the ad folks) adjusted. The margins and money-minting might not be what they were, but "boo-hoo"—we're all still in business.
In fact Madison Avenue always has done what its clients have asked it to do: The rise of the global agencies was to service global brand advertisers, the rise of holding companies to enable a portfolio of services, and the more recent rise of boutiques and start-ups—and agencies buying stakes in these—to enable experimentation and innovation while managing risk. Silicon Valley, and venture capital, is not the only source of startup funding.
While the U.S. economy tanked in the financial crisis—and large players disappeared (Lehman Bros.) or went bankrupt (GM), Stuart asked how many big ad holding companies also went belly up? None.