EDITORIAL: Why agencies lack time to nurture management

Another week, another agency revamp. Saatchi & Saatchi wants to bolster its top-level management, Bates UK is painfully trying to transform itself into a fully integrated unit, and Grey is looking to preserve small agency-type service within a big agency structure.

Another week, another agency revamp. Saatchi & Saatchi wants to

bolster its top-level management, Bates UK is painfully trying to

transform itself into a fully integrated unit, and Grey is looking to

preserve small agency-type service within a big agency structure.



There’s nothing particularly wrong in any of that. Agencies must, after

all, periodically revitalise and reassemble themselves to reflect

changes in their output.



Nevertheless, it’s impossible not to be concerned that the revamps

disguise a fundamental flaw in the UK ad industry. Namely, its long and

lamentable failure to select and nurture its future generations of

management.



In a few brief years, UK advertising has progressed from a cottage

industry to a huge business that will get even bigger as communication

systems converge and the internet burgeons. Yet the number of highly

experienced managers in agencies remains worryingly low.



Unlike its two close relatives, the film and music industries, UK

advertising remains a practitioner business. It is brilliant at

regenerating creativity yet is nowhere near as good at regenerating its

management.



Perhaps it’s because the industry has grown so fast that it has failed

to pick up sufficient maturity along the way. Indeed, the point was

hammered home in Channel 4’s recent documentary on the Saatchi brothers,

which showed how their hubris was allowed to spin out of control because

there were not enough managers of sufficient stature around them to keep

it in check.



Most radical restructures are the result of the short-term thinking that

persists among many agencies. This has been fostered by the seemingly

endless supply of youthful talent and over-ambitious creative teams that

regard themselves as failures unless they have a shelf-full of gongs

within two years. Nor is the situation likely to improve as long as

senior managers think of advertising not as a long-term career but as

the place to find the sort of contract that will set them up for

life.



What has happened at Saatchis, Bates and Grey is indicative of a

shortage of natural leaders with stature and experience.



Without them, the industry will have few genuine heroes to honour apart

from David Ogilvy. He understood that a creative business like

advertising could not be effective without proper management.



Topics

Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content