An industry that used to compete with Hollywood is starting to wonder if it has become a colonial outpost of Silicon Valley. The prime spots on the Cannes beachfront this year belonged to Facebook and Google. A recent report from Accenture said that “marketing is so inextricably linked to technology that, by 2017, chief marketing officers are projected to spend more on information technology and analytics than chief information officers.”
Ten years ago, ad agencies thought they had hit on a new formula for success: move on from the blunt instruments of conventional advertising and embrace the laser-sharp selling tools of digital media. The industry’s about-turn was made partly out of an instinct for self-preservation, but also from a yearning to be aligned with the zeitgeist, in a world where glamour has migrated from Madison Avenue to Palo Alto. To some, however, it feels as if they have given up the ghost.
Goodby’s cri de coeur echoed the anxieties of others. In April this year, Giles Hedger, chief of strategy for Leo Burnett Worldwide, wrote a polemic for the industry’s UK trade journal, Campaign, bemoaning the domination of advertising by technology: “The belief that [the] marketing contract can be stripped of all its joyful subjectivity until all that remains between consumer and brand is transaction?.?.?.?is the fallacy of our time.” Hedger described his views as “heresy” but said he believed “the voices of sanity are growing around us”.