On the Sidelines

Would you want to be a Roman the day after the barbarians sacked the city? What a buzz kill.

Imagine walking into the forum baths and finding some hairy monster from the steppes soaking in your favorite spot. Or going to the Coliseum to find the stands filled with small, bowlegged people in evil-smelling animal pelts with blue paint all over their faces.

And instead of Christians, they throw you to the lions.

Imagine an upperclass Brit the day after they let women join the club? Or Pharaoh’s mood the day after he let the Hebrews go?

What does a player do when he or she can no longer subjugate others and get tables in crowded restaurants?

This is why society stinks.

We like to think of our nation as enlightened and compassionate. So we spend all our time worrying about poor people and stuff. Where’s the compassion for the formerly famous? The previously omnipotent? The once godlike? How come there’s no Arrogance Anonymous?

But enough about history and politics.

Let’s talk about advertising, for which one hears the plaintive echoes of empires lost in complaints about the dearth of good creative reviews. That all the good stuff goes to the media shops. The front page stories. The huge billings. The clients’ attention and interest. Those juicy consolidation reviews for nine-figure accounts that make you major league if you win just one.

Meanwhile, media shops are running around unbundling the hell out of every account they can find. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s Joker, “I have given a name to my pain, and it is the media agency.”

It’s true.

All the good reviews these days are media reviews. The action has shifted from the agencies with offices that look like playgrounds to the agencies with offices that look like offices.

Instead of talking about wobbly cams, the industry is all abuzz about convergence, cross-platform planning and other decidedly uncreative aspects of the business.

Oh, the horror.

Advertising’s creative commun-ity is suffering from post-power depression, and it just breaks my heart.

Well, actually, it doesn’t.

There’s nothing quite so satisfying as listening to the mighty moan after they have fallen. Besides, maybe the reason there aren’t any good creative reviews right now is because there aren’t enough good creatives left to pitch them. Of course, one creatively driven account going into review could change everything.

Another disquieting thing is starting to happen: Media people are starting to act like creatives. They are starting to behave as if they have an inalienable right to subjugate others and get tables in crowded restaurants.

This is where understanding the rise and fall of empires really pays off. Because those who forget history are likely to end up sharing a bath with a barbarian and wondering where the good times went.