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Author Archives: Michael Farmer

About Michael Farmer

Michael Farmer is Chairman of TrinityP3 USA and author of Madison Avenue Manslaughter: an inside view of fee-cutting clients, profit-hungry owners and declining ad agencies, which won the Axiom Gold Business Book Award for the best marketing / advertising book of 2016. He currently serves as Adjunct Associate Professor of Branding and Integrated Communications at The City College of New York (CCNY) and is at work on a new book about the challenges facing Chief Marketing Officers.

Lower Cost Does Not Mean Higher Quality in the Ad Industry

If we were on a guided tour of the advertising industry, here are the points of interest that ought to be on every sightseer’s list. 1) The Advertisers.  “Lower cost” is their strategy du jour, with reductions in media spend, cuts in agency fees, continued use of cost benchmarks and investments in less expensive internal agencies.  Amazing!  Increased shareholder value — marketing with the stroke of a pen, crossing out columns of unnecessary figures. Continue reading

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How “Broken” Is Marketing at Major Advertisers?

Marketing is not fully represented by the career-stressed Chief Marketing Officer. Marketing is not the digital/social specialist or the advertising manager. Marketing is not the head of promotions or the brand manager. Marketing is the network of corporate executives, loosely connected by money, expertise and objectives to achieve improvements in shareholder value, presumably from higher product growth rates. Marketing is the CMO, the heads of Business Profit Centers, the head of Indirect Procurement, the CFO, the CEO and their media, creative and other ad agencies. Continue reading

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Have It Your Way: A Marketing Award for a Commercial Mess

Once upon a time, we learned that marketing had something to do with creating, keeping and satisfying customers.  Marketing success created growth and profitability. Chief Marketing Officers had this responsibility and they spent gads of money with their media and creative agencies to make it happen. When economies were growing, especially in the decades after the Second World War, marketing was a straightforward activity and CMOs were successful.  Recent times have been more troublesome, with e-commerce, digital/social and those pesky Millennials killing brand growth. Continue reading

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Who Will Put “Accountability” Back in “Account Management?”

Account managers were giants of accountability during the Mad Men era, when agencies were paid by media commissions and it was important to convince client executives, up and down the line, that high media spending was good for brands. Everyone benefited from this.  TV advertising was effective, so clients and brands benefited from this account management salesmanship.  TV advertising unleashed the agency’s creative capabilities and allowed creatives to flourish and do their best work. Continue reading

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Has “Digital/Social” Become the Dollar Menu of the Advertising World?

The new McDonald’s Dollar Menu, which includes a sausage burrito for $1, a Bacon McDouble at $2 and the Classic Chicken Sandwich for $3 is designed to boost same-store sales. While this represents the company’s best shot at traffic increases for 2018, the chain will need more than $1-$2-$3 discounted items to maintain margins and stock market price.  Wendy’s and Taco Bell have responded with their own discounts, and the prospect of an industry price war looms. Continue reading

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Plan B: Turning the Madison Avenue Manslaughter into a much needed makeover – Part 3

On Tuesday December 4, 2017 Michael Farmer, author of the award winning marketing business book Madison Avenue Manslaughter presented his Plan B for the industry to turn the manslaughter into a make over that would get brands and agencies moving again. This is the transcript and video of the final of three parts of that presentation where he delivers Plan B to the industry. Continue reading

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Plan B: Turning the Madison Avenue Manslaughter into a much needed makeover – Part 2

On Tuesday December 4, 2017 Michael Farmer, author of the award winning marketing business book Madison Avenue Manslaughter presented his Plan B for the industry to turn the manslaughter into a make over that would get brands and agencies moving again. This is the transcript and video of the second of three parts of that presentation where he defines the issues that Plan B must address to be successful. What is Plan B? Before you decide what Plan B is, decide what kind of Plan A problems have to be solved. I think a lot of people are getting this wrong because you hear people say, ‘our real problem is there is no talent’ or ‘we are not digital enough’ or ‘there are too many pitches’ or ‘the bench markers’. Continue reading

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Plan B: Turning the Madison Avenue Manslaughter into a much needed makeover – Part 1

On Tuesday December 4, 2017 Michael Farmer, author of the award winning marketing business book Madison Avenue Manslaughter presented his Plan B for the industry to turn the manslaughter into a make over that would get brands and agencies moving again. This is the transcript and video of the first of three parts of that presentation where he defines why the industry needs a Plan B. Continue reading

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Who are the Winners and Losers in the Game of Advertising?

Advertising is a business game, played with great intensity by advertisers, agencies and holding companies in competition with one another.  Forget about partnership; that’s a myth from the past, when everyone focused on creating great work that drove growth in media spend and gains in brand market shares. How quaint the industry used to be!  That’s before CMOs became utterly confused by digital and social media and before the blood combat among procurement, agencies and holding companies drove out all the profit, talent and fun from the industry.  Continue reading

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How Do Ad Agencies Rekindle Revenue Growth?

What are the steps that creative ad agencies can take to rekindle revenue growth?  We recall that agency fees have been under downwards pressure for quite some time due to brand globalization, client obsession with “shareholder value,” the rise of procurement, the fragmentation of media, the scrapping of AOR relationships and the stagnation of brand growth.  Continue reading

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Leadership and Talent Challenges for Madison Avenue’s Makeover

Transformations are tough.  They put organisations between the proverbial “rock and hard place.”  The executives in place have not been successful in managing long-term declines — yet, they need to be mobilised to “do something completely different,” whether or not they have the understanding for it or the requisite skills. Senior executive leaders are challenged by transformations, which require bold and unwavering leadership, but since this kind of leadership has been lacking (which is why transformations are required in the first place) existing leaders may not bring enough commitment and conviction to overcome their organisations’ doubts and resistan Continue reading

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Who Can Join the Madison Avenue Makeover Club?

The Madison Avenue Makeover Club is an exclusive one.  Want to join?  If you have to ask, you’re not invited.  It’s more exclusive than the Bohemian or Belizean Groves, or the Alfalfa and Yellowstone Clubs put together. Thinking about the Trilateral Commission? Bilderberg Group?  They’re a piece of cake. The Makeover Club (we’re insiders, and that’s what we call it) invented the word exclusive. It’s posh, privileged, swank, ritzy, respected — and open to the exclusive few who can qualify.  It’s not for the Madison Avenue Masses or the perpetual victims of Madison Avenue Manslaughter. Membership rules are very strict.  Want to know more? Continue reading

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What Is Plan B for Ad Agencies and Holding Companies?

We’re all familiar with “Plan B.”  It emerges out of the haze when Plan A has self-destructed for one of a thousand reasons.  An unexpected snowstorm cancels our flight. We’ll have to scrub a key meeting.  Too bad.  On to Plan B. If  there is no Plan B, we’ll have to improvise.  We’re usually unhappy with Plan B.  It’s a necessity, born of circumstance.  We shrug our shoulders, wistful and disappointed.  Oh, well.  Plan A was so much better!  But … it isn’t happening. Continue reading

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Madison Avenue Moneyball: Insights About the Game of Advertising

By now, we know what “Moneyball” is:  The best-selling book about baseball by Michael Lewis (2003), the Academy Award-nominated movie with Brad Pitt (2011) and — most importantly — the underlying concept that obscure metrics reveal the truth about how the game of baseball works.  Moneyball general managers, like Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s, could consistently win games despite payroll disadvantages that prevented the A’s from hiring expensive talent.  Lewis asked, “How’d they do it?  What was their secret?” Continue reading

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Why Agency Makeovers are Difficult

Organisational stability is what we seek.  We struggle to make order out of daily chaos.  We yearn for the illusive: understanding and respect from clients, the successful management of deadlines, the creation of effective work, the achievement of personal satisfaction, the comfort that comes from knowing that we and our organisations are valuable partners — that we fit in and, for better or worse, that we successfully occupy a little corner of the world. Isn’t that what our daily efforts are all about? Continue reading

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