The World: Insider's View - New York

The ad industry needs the Big Apple to be big, brash and ballsy. But for this to happen, today's agency leaders need to get into a New York state of mind, Peter Minnium argues.

I am an avowed internationalist. Although my office is in New York, I spend most days on planes or in other countries making the Lowe network work. As an internationalist, I fundamentally believe all agencies are created equal and that each has the same inalienable right to create world-class ideas.

I'm so pure in this belief that I'm sure I annoy my local friends (in many countries around the world, naturally) by arguing, for example, that our Colombian work is on a par with our London work - or it would be if only we had more pesos for production. You can recognise me or my type: I'm the one wearing the native Argentinian scarf with the tweed shooting jacket over the Hong Kong-made blazer and Charvet shirt, sitting at the bar asking the 'tender for a pisco sour. I would apologise for being such a caricature, but I didn't choose this life, it chose me.

Yet, perhaps paradoxically, I am writing to assert my fundamental belief that New York City is the Capital of the Agency Universe. And I offer those who disagree a sanitised version of the much-used, but anatomically impossible New York call-to-action: go copulate with yourself. Why you may ask? Because today, more than ever, the business needs a strong New York. Not just sturdy, but a big, brash, ballsy New York with, yes, a super-sized ego to match.

I'm deadly serious; the world needs an outsized New York to love and equally to hate, to aspire to match and desire to beat. There are no two more powerful motivators than a charismatic hero or a diabolical enemy.

Take your pick - friend or foe, no place plays the role better than New York City.

To my consternation, New York today is at risk of losing its cojones.

The signs are all there. The hottest agency in NY? Crispin Porter & Bogusky in Miami. The trade's cover boys? Sir Martin and Jim Stengel, Procter & Gamble's global marketing officer. The most-talked-about new agency blood? Wnek, Gosper, Robertson - all foreigners. And most disturbing, the most successful new agencies? StrawberryFrog, Mother and Taxi - outposts from Amsterdam, London and Toronto. Not long ago, the New York agency community I knew would crush interlopers like these before they cleared Customs.

I won't try to explain the reasons for this perilous state - they are too boring. Rather, I will make a plea to the new agency leaders, which include the aforementioned non-natives. Join me in the following: stand up, take a deep breath, pick up your phone, dial Paris, London, Toronto or wherever your headquarters are, and bellow: "No, you listen to me, that's not the way we do it in New York" (expletives can be added at your discretion). There, I feel better already, don't you?

- Peter Minnium is the managing director of Lowe Worldwide.


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