April 13, 2010

Madison Avenue's Search for $Greener Acres$


Green Acres is the place to be.
Farm livin is the life for me
Land spreadin' out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that country-side

Eva loved the city. Eddie loved the country. Together they made the best Slicks/Hicks-ville comedy team ever.

However, this week's news about interactive agency O'Grady Meyers being purchased by Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith publishing, just as the MadAve address-based Met Life Clock Tower was being purchased by Studio 54's legendary Ian Schrager is even funnier!

Known for a more heartland-based culture, with Meredith's ad agency purchase, regardless of whether O'Grady Meyers moves its offices to Des Moines or not, this buy-out shows that you can be just as shrewd (or more) chewing on straw than on a big fat cigar!


Similarly, as the last cycle of financial gimmickry as shown us, it was the home security-based imagery behind Met Life-like life insurance, pensions and money management companies that lured greener Americans to get ripped off, while the Wall Street locals walked away with balefuls of Hey$$$$

Met Life perfected Green Acres' Mr. Chaney's sweet-talk, small-town-like gibberish. It helped them build what was at one point in time, the tallest tower on the planet. Soon its JPMorgan, hunchback-like, master-of-the-universe ghosts will have their barn swept clean to make way for intimate, warm and fuzzy ($$$$$) homes, soon to be available for those looking to "cuddle up to the fireplace" with a cup of Starbucks hot cocoa.

How many fields of green did the aw-shucks image Meredith have to plow to exert its goal to increase their shrewd ability to sell stuff to the American public, much of which will be done by killing nature's trees, ignoring that 98% of its mail will be tossed in the can?


It should be no surprise then that the one and only Green Acres character America universally fell in love with was Hootersville's Arnold Ziffel, the pig!

He let it all hang out, and didn't try to disguise that he was a hog, as compared to some of our Des Moines and MadAve types. Some large agencies have recently gotten their hands caught in the cotton gin in the last cycle, who once spun their yarn at what was once the tallest, towering advertising agency on the planet.

Others continue to boast about how their prowess in media artistry out-distances small-sized shops. Yet one senior consultant with many years in the industry recently informed us that in his recent visits to ad agencies, local TV buyers still use DDS, reps still make time-wasting sales calls and virtually all shops still keep their buying groups in separate buying department silos. Much is being made about branded entertainment, though this person also said that clients should be less naive.

"Effective product integration depends on the situation at the time. It depends on the client's goals and the budget. Now, with the average prime time rating demographically hovering around the 3.0's, it's amazing that a client watches it and thinks everyone else is watching it. They don't realize that 97% of the people around the world are never going to see it. And they just lost a fortune to make themselves feel good. I think one of the great job titles of all time was when the a Hollywood studio created the "Director of Advertising Promotion" position which they made a big deal about on Madison Avenue. Back in Hollywood the joke was that the person was called the "Director of Exploitation"

Yet, it was internationally known Margaret Mead who said that "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does."


It just goes to show you that Hootersville "kinder gentler" talk is potentially more slippery than any Park Avenue penthouse cocktail party chatter. One hundred years ago, overalls-dressed farmers built Des Moines, hauling hay, livestock and agricultural products into the city, thinking about how their goods would feed people in metropolitan areas. One hundred years ago, grey flannel suit-dressed "idea men" threw their ad campaign ideas "up against the wall" to see if they "would stick." Then and now, most of Madison Avenue still focuses on whether "it will play it Peoria".

Look what the Interactive business did. It enabled Des Moines executives who bring up their families in areas surrounded by "amber waves of grain" can think like a metropolitan lifer while MadAve-home addressed metropolitan lifers can sit around the kitchen table and think about "purple mountains majesty!"

New York is where I'd rather stay
I get allergic smelling hay
I just adore a penthouse view
Darling I love you but give me Park Avenue

How much did its New York City locale affect the business of Madison Avenue? More specifically, if ad agencies had centralized in another city like Philadelphia where N.W.Ayer was born, or Des Moines, home of Meredith Publishing, would today's advertising industry be the same? We'll never know.


The chores, the stores
Fresh Air, Times Square

What we do know is that our business is returning to its roots. The magazine business gave birth to ad agencies by separating the ad creation department from the primary business of publishing. We imagine that bringing the ad agency back into the publishing fold is not such an outrageous idea, particularly when today we find media companies already offering a full-service suite of products to marketers locally and globally.

You are my wife,
Goodbye city life
Green Acres we are there
Bam pah!

We admire Eva and Eddie's naïve attempt to find truth outside NY in small-town America. But perhaps more than anything, we continue to love Mr. Arnold Ziffel, the sweetest pig of them all!


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