Route 66 as a Metaphor for the Agency Business
Earlier in this decade, our agency was involved in a wonderful campaign for Damon Motor Coach based on legendary Route 66. Most of Route 66 is gone today, replaced for all practical purposes by the modern interstate highway system. High speed. Highly impersonal. Just a means of getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. And those of us who remember the great old cross-country highways like Route 66 do so with a sense of melancholy about an era seen through the rear view mirror of life.
I'm not sure why, but with increasing frequency I seem to be thinking of the agency business in much the same way. We boomers in the business chose this profession because of its high energy creativity and as a vehicle for making a difference through marketing communications. Whether those differences were actually for better or worse, I will leave to others to judge. I just know that it was an exhilarating business to be in, filled with all kinds of interesting people and opportunities.
How the business has changed was put in perfect perspective for me the other day when I attended a seminar on the subject of the agency of the future. The moderator put things bluntly. He said he doubted that many of the agency principals in the room that day had gotten into the business to be software developers, adding that we better come to grips with the fact our business is clearly headed in that direction. The hottest ideas in marketing these days are digital and heavily driven by software. Browser and smartphone apps epitomize this evolution.
It is tempting to wax nostalgic and yearn for the thrilling days of yesteryear. There's also an inclination to lament the societal need for speed and the perceived impersonalism of the new media order. But I think that may be missing the point. Traveling on Route 66 really was all about getting from point A to point B. The interstate system just utilized technology to get us there faster, more comfortably and presumably safer.
That's why I'm not worried about the future of the agency business.
Marketing has always been about ideas. Ideas that communicate a client's story. Ideas that enhance the sales process. Ideas that spur growth. Ideas that produce revenue.
That part of the business is not going to drive off into the sunset. Our methods and media may be changing. Some of the necessary skill sets may be changing. Technology is providing us tools to get where we want to go faster, more efficiently and presumably safer. But the engine that drives marketing success has always been fueled by the power of an idea.
My first car was a yellow '57 Chevy. I loved that car. But candidly, I wouldn't want to drive it cross-country to see our grandson in Seattle.
Nope. Now there are better ways to get there.
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