A good friend forwarded this link to a fascinating blog post by Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody. It is longish, but if you are at all interested in the changing agency landscape, Shirky’s insights on these waning days of newspapers provide a valuable analogy to the challenges advertising currently faces. Or doesn’t.
Shirky posits that while newspapers clearly saw the internet coming well over a decade ago, they didn’t respond by rethinking and reinventing their product along new paths but rather tried to fabricate fanciful profit models rooted in the old habits, even though those old habits were already changing and would most likely accelerate.
Shirky makes many fascinating points (and reading the following excerpt does not excuse you from reading his original post) but I found this the most trenchant for our current situation:
“When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse. This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times. One of the effects on the newspapers is that many of their most passionate defenders are unable, even now, to plan for a world in which the industry they knew is visibly going away.”
I won’t pretend I have the answer to the agency world’s challenges…yet. But I think we can draw some pretty helpful analogies between the advertising and newspaper industries, and hopefully learn some lessons from their struggles. And so to prepare for advertising’s future, I will force myself to think some unthinkable thoughts.
And I do not think of myself as Chicken Little, because I don’t think the sky is falling.
Actually, it could be opening up…