Last week Jon Bond became an investor, advisor and strategic partner with Victors & Spoils. In the last few months, Jon and I spent a lot of time talking about the future of advertising, not only between ourselves but also with dozens of clients. Jon has a clear, expansive vision for the future. I’m excited to be working with him. Here’s a conversation we had over the past couple of weeks. Buckle your seat belt. The future is at the doorstep.
John Winsor: Lately, we’re seeing some big culture shifts taking place. Just this past week, I was struck hearing that YouTube celebrated its 5th anniversary and reached a milestone of more than two billion views a day. It’s clear, as a society, we’re moving from a world of scarcity to one of abundance. Do you think it’s still possible for the agency models built on an old cultural paradigm to help clients survive (and thrive) in this new world?
Jon Bond: Traditional agencies are threatened by abundance and see it as yet another tool to commoditize their already tenuous position in the marketing hierarchy. They see abundance as simply over-supply, tipping the balance of supply and demand toward commoditization. But change also produces opportunities. The new generation of creative people who rise to define the job of "curator" will thank the advent of abundance for making this new profession possible, and in fact necessary. Traditional shops cannot easily adjust to this new age because it would mean enduring a painful transition. Their legacy issues are their weakness.
I love ad people and the ideas part of the business. It's the “business” of the business that really sucks and brings down the rest of it. Sometimes you have to destroy something you love in order to rebuild it again, and that is what the new models, like Victors & Spoils, will do. There will be pain. But there is no alternative to the slow, painful death that has been eating away at the soul of the business for the past 15 years.
JW: In our careers, we’ve both seen clients go to the big agencies of say 500 people to gain access to the 25 folks who are really pushing the work forward. Clients want the best creative work without having to pay for bloated agency infrastructures, but the current paradigm is built on a full time employee (FTE) compensation model. This means access to the top 25 talent comes with a price tag that includes the cost of the other 475 people at the agency. How will increasing client demand for higher quality at a fair price impact the current size and scope of agencies?
JB: In the current model the top talent are underpaid and the bottom people are overpaid. That is true commoditization. FTEs are commoditizers because they reward hours versus results and talent, which isn't advertising - it's the post office! If we want to regain the top talent we've lost, we need to take a tip from Hollywood and make the rewards of stardom spectacular.
JW: You’ve been out talking a lot to some of the most interesting and progressive CMOs. What are they saying?
JB: CMOS are about efficiency. They want it better, cheaper and faster, and if you can't do one of the three, you are out. Unfortunately, the only recourse has been to get shops to cut price, which only serves to drive more talent out of the business, make us worth less to clients and incentivize them to pay us even less. We need to embrace tools – technology, new models, etc. – that enable us to deliver more for less in less time, without making people work harder for less money. The old must die to make way for the new. And, the only alternative is outright extinction.
JW: It seems the whole concept of aggregating place-based assets under a global holding company is being threatened by the radical shifts taking place in society. In your opinion, what’s in the future for holding companies? Will they exist? If so, what do you think they’ll look like?
JB: Holding Companies? What is their true purpose? Businesses cannot exist without a purpose that serves a customer. I believe holding companies are the traditional agencies of the corporate world. They are generic because they try to be everything to every client. The holding companies of the future will be more specialized and will be great at something. For example, maybe Google will own the “data driven” holding company and Facebook will control the “people driven” one. Each will have a diametrically opposed view of the world, and an epic battle of ideologies will ensue, which will not be won by either side because they define the essential ways in which people differ by nature. There will always be a large market for both.
JW: You’ve got a big vision for the industry and the future of advertising. What’s your next move?
JB: My goal is to reinvent the industry by bringing the power back to the practitioners the way Hollywood has done it with DreamWorks and stars owning points in their movies, or having their own production companies. The advertising business sucks, so what are we afraid of losing at this point? Change is our friend and the more dramatic the better.
JW: Thanks, Jon. I’m stoked to be working with you to fulfill this vision. This is going to be fun...John Winsor