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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.

Viva Mexico! Where Ad Agency Innovations are Improving SOWs and Fees

Mexican ad agencies are calculating and negotiating fees based on the amount of content they produce for each client — with fees to be based on Scope of Work size rather than on arbitrary cost benchmarks dictated by clients. The effort is being led by the industry’s trade association, AMAP (they’re like the 4As, only more proactive) and Dentsu Mexican agency Flock, which was the first agency to embrace the concept. Since Scopes of Work are growing, AMAP and Flock reasoned, agency fees should grow as well. They’ve put the concept into action in Mexico. Continue reading

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Confused About the Advertising Industry? Who Isn’t? Read On!

Holding company shares are falling. Their ad agencies are shrinking, with low morale, low salaries and hiring freezes. Accenture and Deloitte are the new, growing competitors. Advertisers are cutting spend but investing in-house. Chief Creative Officers are disappearing, not entirely due to sexual harassment charges. Confused by some or all of this? Read on! Continue reading

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Leadership Trials of the Agency CEO

We don’t get to pick the era we live in.  We’re human, though, and we dream about other times and other places.  Given a choice, today’s agency CEOs might dream about turning back the clock sixty years or so, when the world — and the ad agency within it — was much simpler and a lot more fun. Television was new and growing in 1958.  There were only 40 million TV households (today’s number is 120 million) and the agency’s creative challenge was how to get better at TV and print — and grow even faster than the post-war economy.   Continue reading

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Is ZBB (Zero-Based Budgeting) Mismanaged by Advertisers?

WPP points the finger at ZBB as the most important factor driving cuts in WPP’s agency revenues — cuts that have taken 35% off WPP’s share price from its 2017 high.  Leading industry analyst Brian Wieser identifies ZBB as a major factor suppressing holding company organic growth, along with other factors like increased contract scrutiny Continue reading

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What Happens When the Magic of Creativity No Longer Works?

In barbaric and prehistoric times, before primitive man invented religion and prayed to gods for intercessions, man was isolated and alone, facing an uncertain and terrifying world that worked by its own logic. Would the sun rise every day?  Would winter fade and spring follow in its stead? Would there be fish to catch, prey to hunt, rain for water and crops, bountiful harvests, cures for disease, pregnancy and babies, victory in war?  Would the tribe flourish?  Tribes were like advertisers today, looking for certainties and prosperity in a hostile world. Continue reading

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The Ad Industry in 2018 – The Year of Magical Thinking

Sir Martin Sorrell, the industry’s most prominent agency spokesman, now has the difficult job of explaining, on behalf of WPP and of the industry in general, why revenue growth has been so difficult to achieve and what can be done about it. Continue reading

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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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