Relationships are important. Word last week that Procter & Gamble was looking to cut back on its agency commitments, choosing instead to hire agencies only as it needs them, like housepainters, was bad news for good work.
A thousand great ads have come from one-night stands and flings, of course. But the work that's born of a solid marriage between brand and agency — Just Do it, Think Different, The Choice of a New Generation — sits atop the list of adland's greatest hits.
But P&G is part of a trend. As Claire Beale, global editor-in chief of Campaign (and my new boss), recently noted, the current frenzy of account reviews dwarfs anything seen for a decade. And more reviews, for better or worse, equals fewer long-term relationships.
Driving these defections is an obsession with short-term results that too often comes at the expense of far-horizon thinking.
"Always-on, 24/7 working to feed the ever-hungry digital beast has made short-term thinking an acute necessity," she wrote, "and too often there is not enough resource, money or energy left for long-term planning."
In publishing, we are guilty of this, too. The shift to digital has every editor affixed to his dashboard, desperately counting shares in search of the secret sauce. Success is measured one page at a time, making it easy, even convenient, to ignore your overall story — the one about your brand. Are you a source of distracting entertainment, or do you want to further the conversation? Do you celebrate the industry you cover or despise it? What, exactly, is the purpose of all your "content"?
It's been eight months since Campaign, after five decades in the UK (plus several years in Asia, India, Turkey and the Middle East), decided to launch a U.S. edition. So far, my new colleagues Sarah C. Shearman and Matthew Rothenberg have done a brilliant job harnessing the industry's enthusiasm for a new voice, crafting articles and videos that tackle some big questions. But I know the industry still wants answers, like just how serious are we? Is this a long-term thing? And what, if anything, makes us different?
I asked those questions myself. "Very serious," is the answer I was given to the first. But it was the answer to the last that made me want the job. "We don't really know yet." It's not every day you get the chance to help a new voice enter an established conversation. But when the chance comes along, it's important to give it a try.
Because even long-term relationships have to start somewhere. Leaving one agency gives another one a shot. And for an industry to stay vital, upstart voices must compete with the old, comfortable players. Today's account reviews may produce tomorrow's Nike/Wieden, provided we give the future its due.
Ogilvy wasn't built in a day, and neither will this be. In the coming weeks and months, the site will evolve — new voices, new features, new looks and fresh perspectives — as we figure out what exactly this is. But our hope is to build something that feels like marriage material. At least that's the brief I was given.
Douglas Quenqua is editor-in-chief of Campaign US.