Editorial: Agencies need to adapt to new media landscape

With brilliant and effective creativity still at a premium within the changing media landscape, Laurence Green presents an intriguing analysis of the reasons why (page 24).

His premise is that agencies have approached much of what they do in a "back-to-front" fashion. That they spend too much time honing their messages rather than finding out what people want to hear and working back from that.

Agencies, traditionally slow to change their structures and strategies, may find it hard to get their heads around this. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, given that the industry's roots lie in a much more innocent age. In a time when the information superhighway didn't exist, when there was no communication overload, when governments were in control of events and people were deferential towards the messages they received, whether commercial or political.

It's light years away from this cynical and questioning era so well illustrated by the queues that snaked around the block from every Northern Rock office in Britain.

If the run on the Rock proves anything, it's the interdependence of national economies and the impotence of governments in the face of it. What's more, it shows how disbelieving people have become about reassuring words coming either from ministers or multinational advertisers.

Today, the welter of information available to consumers means their perceptions of brands are moulded by many things that are beyond the power of conventional advertising to influence. Woe betide the brand owner caught using Far East sweatshop labour or polluting the world's oceans and rivers. It's not just a question of what advertisers say about their brands, but how they conduct themselves.

For the ad industry, the implications of this are profound. While the generation of ideas has never been more important, it is the ability of those ideas to work across many disciplines and address a range of challenges that will be crucial.

Awards juries will be honouring well-crafted ads for some time yet. But such ads will increasingly have to be part of a broader plan to connect brands with their audiences.