Bill Bernbach, one of the titans of modern advertising, wrote a letter to the owners of Grey Advertising, where he was then a creative director:
Our agency is getting big. That’s something to be happy about. But it’s something to worry about, too, and I don’t mind telling you I’m damn worried. I’m worried that we’re going to fall into the trap of bigness, that we’re going to follow history instead of making it, that we’re going to be drowned by superficialities instead of buoyed up by solid fundamentals. I’m worried lest hardening of the creative arteries begin to set in.
A couple of decades later, David Ogilvy, in his book from 1983, Ogilvy on Advertising, lamented bigness from a different angle:
Laymen assume that if you work in an advertising agency, you produce advertisements. The fact is that 90 per cent of the staff don’t. They do research, they prepare media plans, they buy space and time, they do things loosely described as ‘marketing.’ And about 60 per cent of them do clerical work.
In most agencies there are twice as many account executives as copywriters. If you were a dairy farmer, would you employ twice as many milkers as cows?
Now here we are in the 21st century, and the same issues with agency bloat persist. We heed Bernbach’s caution, because we’ve climbed out of the traps of bigness ourselves. And we answer Ogilvy’s question with one of our own: what if your cows could milk themselves?