I could really relate to the article, Mayhem on Madison Avenue, by Danielle Sacks, from the last issue of Fast Company. It’s been talked about a lot already but here it is again. I spent 25+ years on the agency side in NY and Chicago and in the latter years it was a constant struggle–for me and the agencies I worked for–to stay relevant. 

I think the industry will survive but clearly it’s in flux and won’t tomorrow resemble what it is today. Nor really should it. I do feel TV commercials will continue to play a vital role in marketing–the viewership numbers continue to impress and support this… The challenges are huge, however, and the pressures to effectively engage or endear consumers without losing them to the remote or TiVo, etc. will continue. See links below: For every Zazoo Condoms, Nike “Human Chain”, Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”, Snickers “The Game”, or Amnesty International “SIGNATURE” TV spot that comes along every so often, there are ten times as many that shouldn’t even be on the air — no creative idea driving them, not really grounded in any insight, just someone in love with a pun or what they think consumers will respond to (we call this, ads done in the conference room, as opposed to in the consumer’s lair): Olive Garden (what are these two on? I want some!), Dr. Pepper (“Dr. Love/Little Kiss”), Jared Jewelers (can’t find it but trust me, it’s bad); Enterprise Rent-A-Car (car with the brown paper wrapping; etc.) We can also expect viral components and some form of digital integration–or attempts at viral components and digital integration–with every one of these… 

Yelling isn’t selling. And unlike the people who work for you, consumers don’t do things you tell them to. Maddening.  The biggest challenge is to stay fresh and current with ideas, not to justify whether or not we’ll still have TV or magazines or newspapers in the coming years. We will. (They’ll just maybe be different…)

I finally got out of advertising as we know it. Not because I had to or not that I won’t go back some day but because I got hooked by the design world. Now more than ever it’s an industry that seems obscenely relevant. Funny how in all those years in advertising, I was often in meetings with the digital agency, the PR firm, the media buyers, the direct shop, etc…. but never the design team. Witness the recent JetBlue article in Fast Company a few issues ago with Fionna Morrisson … These guys get it. So does Method Products, the “people against dirty”. And Oxo. And Adidas. There are many others but not enough. Another observation: Not frequently enough are design firms integrated into the marketing mix or strategic discussions early in the game–we’re often used as an after-thought. So, to me, the potential here seems tremendous. 

And I see it’s changing… We in the industry are starting to establish ourselves earlier on in the marketing and strategy discussions, which simply leads to better thinking and better work; work that ties it all together.  I like our long-term prospects, too. Coming out of this recession, many companies/brands are re-inventing or re-confirming their message or brand proposition, getting the ad campaign right, optimizing social media strategies, engaging consumers in the right milieu, etc. but not always looking to change or examine the elements of brand design, including packaging. And because packaging is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak–in-store, where the shoppers are–if it’s not part of the brand message or reflective of the brand essence, it’s not going to be part of the greater whole. More companies are starting to grasp this, especially with the evolution of shopper marketing.

Like advertising, design faces similar challenges, including how to price/charge effectively for the services, thinking and creativity provided. There’s the doing part–time and talent against an assignment–and then there’s the thinking part and the value-added. What’s the idea worth? How is it measured? How is its effectiveness gauged? Is it even possible? I’d argue in design, it’s even trickier because we don’t have many of the metrics that the ad industry professes to have. (And then again, would they even be effective — we’re more art than science). Maybe we need to be seen more as a verb than as a noun; a process, not a function; an aesthetic or value, not a sketch or a line… But when it’s done right, it can affect the bottom line.

I can’t always define good design but I do know it when I see it (yes, like you-know-what!). On a building, the building itself, in a lobby, on a company’s masthead, or the logo it stands under, the product, the packaging it comes in, the company’s literature, etc. It appeals to me on an artistic level. It’s totally subjective, I confess, but I’ll instantly like it or hate it or feel indifferent to it. It’s personal and I can make a snap judgment. On some level, the design is mysterious. On the other hand, I can see when and where it links to the brand identity or brand message if indeed it is something I’m already aware of. Advertising has the same power over me but all-too-often the representation and interpretation seems more popular than personal. It’s noisy and it often says “Hey, over here, see me!!”. Intrusive. Design can be as well, of course, but it just seems to me to be more quiet, saying “appreciate me.” Quietly. And if you do, fine, and if not, you move on. Like being in an art gallery as opposed to seeing it on a wide-screen TV in a popular sports bar.

For all of you caught up in advertising mayhem looking for a next move, consider design. Hell, it’s more civilized, plus it’s another option to digital, to where everybody seems to be gravitating.



Zazoo Condoms 


Nike “Human Chain” 

Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” 

Snickers “The Game” 

Amnesty International “SIGNATURE” 


 Olive Garden


Author: David Simpson, Director of Marketing and Growth at Ceradini Brand Design