Obituary for Brand Advertising Agencies


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For years now clients have been encouraged by ad agencies to spend billions of dollars every year on brand advertising campaigns. Ostensibly in an attempt to drive sales. In his book “Obsessive Branding Disorder”, Lucas Conley refers to it as “The illusion of business and the business of illusion.” The digital world has helped to dispel many of these illusions, and hence brand advertising as we know it is no longer effective. The king is dead, long live the king.

Today we all live in that “Global Village”, where we are all continuously in contact with each other. It is almost impossible for a brand to create a brand perception that is different to that of the brand reality. Even if a brand claims to have incredible reliability, actual consumer experience will determine how they perceive the brand and how they describe the product to others.

There is not brand in this world that can outspend the consumer. Think about it for a moment. All those consumers are able to communicate their perceptions/experiences online at no cost whatsoever to themselves personally. The combined effect is exponentially bigger than any brands ad budget and far more credible from a consumer perspective too. Consumers have been empowered and they are speaking up.

Real brands do not need to shout out claims of who they are, nor do they need brand advertising to create their brand image. These brands earn their reputation through continuous innovation, great products and outstanding customer service. They continuously deliver on their brand promise. Their reputation is earned over time and acts as a beacon for new customers, helping simplify their purchase decisions. Today the brand experience determines the brands reputation.

In order to survive, let alone prosper, brand advertising agencies need to move quickly and change their business model, if they want to retain their long held role as “Brand Stewards”.  Recognizing this fact, Ogilvy & Mather evolved from “Brand Stewardship”, referring to it now as “360 Degree Brand Stewardship”. Today brand stewards are constantly tracking and listening to customer and consumer feedback. They have mastered the digital tools available and are always aware of what the customers think, are asking for, or suggesting.

No longer does a role exist for the traditional brand advertising agency. The king is dead. Long live the king. There is, however, still a role for a competent brand steward. It’s up to you to make the changes necessary if your agency wants to take on this more complex role.  





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