Before a company settles on a clever message, it might be nice to have an organization that knows how to test the messages to improve the likelihood of success. Agencies have structure and processes -- the type of rigor that not only protects a client, but can be a serious factor in the success of their product or service.
For more than 60 years, the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson was as critical to the success of Kodak as any of their manufacturing processes or patents. The relationship between Ogilvy and IBM has spelled success for both for more than 16 years now. A major part of IBM's strategy is to be able to explain what it is they do and Ogilvy does a masterful job of fitting complex ideas into simple TV spots and print ads.
So the question to be answered is: Will the advertising business take the 3 percent and use it to focus on making the necessary changes and adjustments to be viable for decades to come, or will it try to hold on to old ideas like the record industry and be bypassed by new ways to reach consumers?
In Irving's story, Van Winkle found some family members and pretty much carried on as before. I predict that agencies, like the weta, awakened after a long, forced sleep, are hungry -- and those who have survived are eager to make the changes necessary to thrive.
Larry Woodard is a director on the Advertising Week board and chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' New York Council.