Opinion: Perspective - In advertising's new world order, it's time to revolt

If you haven't yet seen the Mad Avenue Blues film that we've written about in this week's Diary (page 35), I can thoroughly recommend it (at least for a couple of minutes). You'll find it on Campaignlive.co.uk.

It's wonderfully sweet, for something so unpalatable. It's an elegy to the world as we know it, crumbling before the digital juggernaut. The refrain throughout is: "The Year The Media Died." The big media owners, the big ad agency groups, the traditional advertising strategies are all in trouble, to the tune of American Pie. You'll be humming it yourself before the day's end, but you're living it too.

For another - equally depressing and exciting - take on the removal of an old order and the emergence of a completely new culture and economy, seek out a copy of Chris Anderson's new book Free.

According to Anderson, two revolutionary forces are colliding to change our value matrices. We have the rise of digital economics (the ability to reach millions of people for negligible cost via the web) and the wholesale embrace of the principle of giving away something for nothing as a way of encouraging people to buy something else. Coming together at this point, they are creating an era when "free will be seen as the norm, not an anomaly".

For media owners, this is a deeply challenging prospect. Quality content is not free to produce. Anderson reminds us that the media are not (really) creating content to sell to consumers, they're selling consumers to advertisers. Unfortunately, the rise of free also coincides with the fall in advertising spend. But there's no doubt that Anderson is right. "Free is what you want and free, increasingly, is what you're going to get," he wrote in Wired magazine.

Just in case you're not quite convinced that we've reached the point of no return, take a look at Russell Davies' column on page 14 this week. Davies is, for once, lost for words (though, of course, he's managed to turn out a beautifully stimulating and elegant column on the subject). He's lost for words because "the 'digital revolution' is over and done". The battle's finished, "digital won". End of.

It's pointless to argue, though as Davies acknowledges: "There are still agencies, networks, clients, everythings who don't really get this yet." Which is an interesting lens through which to consider the restructures taking place at M&C Saatchi and TBWA this week.

Both restructures are underpinned by a recognition that a form of integration is an imperative response (at least from grouped companies) to the changing landscape.

Imperative, and obvious ... particularly in a downturn. Except that the word integration has become debased. M&C's Tim Duffy puts his finger on the problem. Integration is not (necessarily) the answer; whatever you want to call it, it's about developing strategies that work across disciplines, platforms, fiefdoms. Lumping everybody into a single corporate structure in the hope that it will achieve this strategic fluidity is naive. But there's no doubt that in a digitally led, free economy, corporate structural change is necessary.

Now agencies of every hue claim to offer digital, of course, and strategic thinking, social media solutions, content creation and on and on. This sort of duplication between sibling companies is uneconomic, muddling and time consuming for clients.

And let's be honest, here. There really aren't enough first-class creatives, strategists, planners, managers to go around. Creating centralised structures not only better equips agencies to respond to the new world order, it also spreads the industry's top talent more effectively across all consumer touchpoints.

As Davies says, we're living and working through a revolution. The agencies that survive and thrive will be the ones that revolutionise their own businesses in response.