While layoffs get the headlines, the real story is that advertising itself is in uncharted territory. This is beyond a cyclical economic problem, where a downturn means advertising is the first to get cut and the last to be restored. Smart people like Umair Haque, Idris Mootee and Karl Long have sounded the alarm. What happens when we move beyond the mass consumerism that has propped up our economies?
For kicks, I often ask ad types this question during meetings to see the responses. I get quizzical looks. This is impossible, I'm told. But is it? Many problems we face are an indictment of debt-fuelled consumption. Cheap credit made us feel rich enough to buy big houses, then use the fake wealth to buy more stuff.
Advertising was there to underpin this untenable cycle. We are a nation of spenders that needs to become savers. This is a challenge for an industry premised on making us buy stuff we don't need. Don't take my word for it, listen to WPP's CEO Martin Sorrell: "All habits of clients, agencies, media owners encourage people to consume more - super consumption. That is still embedded in the consumer's psyche, so we're going to have to respond by doing things differently and making sacrifices."