CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE: The next hundred years could be as surprising as 1999

By CAROLINE MARSHALL, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 17 December 1999 12:00AM

Almost a year ago, when Gordon Brown, the chancellor, forecast that the British economy would grow by between 1 and 1.5 per cent in 1999, he was roundly mocked for his optimism. It’s hard to remember now that 1999 began with forecasts of recession, that the millennium bug would destroy the economy at the year’s end - if the world hadn’t come to an end in the summer as predicted by Nostradamus. But the downturn never hit, the eclipse came and went behind a cloud and the industry is busy roistering as is usual at this time of year.

Almost a year ago, when Gordon Brown, the chancellor, forecast that

the British economy would grow by between 1 and 1.5 per cent in 1999, he

was roundly mocked for his optimism. It’s hard to remember now that 1999

began with forecasts of recession, that the millennium bug would destroy

the economy at the year’s end - if the world hadn’t come to an end in

the summer as predicted by Nostradamus. But the downturn never hit, the

eclipse came and went behind a cloud and the industry is busy roistering

as is usual at this time of year.



So what better time for it to present a more optimistic face? The threat

from management consultancies seems to have been averted (if it ever

existed), the dotcom revolution is, so far, of more obvious financial

benefit to advertising groups than any of its new paper millionaires;

there is more evidence on the efficacy of advertising than ever before.

And yet the tone emanating from the British advertising industry’s heavy

hitters is still one of lack of confidence.



I suppose this is because there is a sense of the industry operating in

a world in which the old ways are no longer valid. Procter & Gamble, the

world’s biggest advertiser, is phasing out the commission system; the

total communications approach will require further changes in the way

agencies structure themselves to produce creative work and in what they

do for their clients; the advertising holding companies are likely to

consolidate still further. Everything is unpredictable and scary.



Some, however, find it all so exciting that they almost wish they were

going round again. They would probably do things differently (who was it

that said ’If life had a second edition, how would I correct the

proofs?’) but they relish the sense of being well over the threshold of

a world dominated by electronic media. An end of year thought, then,

borrowed from Petrarch, for all readers: ’Many have not become what they

might have because they believed they were what people mistakenly said

they were.’ Advertising has its place reserved in the new digital

environment.



The difference is that, more than ever, it has to fight for its right to

own it.



Though the recession never came, one piece of Christmas tradition

remains unchanged. Ruthless agency bosses who have spent the whole year

conspiring to do the dirty on all and sundry suddenly come over all

sentimental when there are Christmas cards to be sent. They may have

ruined lives and careers, but inside the envelope all is comfort and

joy, celestial choirs, peace and love, public relations treacle. I

sometimes wonder whether the people who sign these cards ever bother to

read them or wonder to whom they are being sent. Then again, we’d all

hate not to get any, wouldn’t we?





caroline.marshall@haynet.com



Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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