April 8, 2009

The Good News About JWT Closing

Filed under: Operations — Joe Grant @ 4:48 pm


000576686J. Walter Thompson-Chicago, which once muscularly anchored the north end of Michigan Avenue with a massive staff and reach, is now defunct, apparently the victim of internecine politics stemming from a long-standing rivalry with their New York comrades. You can get the gory details in this AdAge article which also carries a good history of the Chicago office’s many accomplishments.

Damn, but this hurts. Chicago lost an icon last Friday. This is the gang that brought us the Uncola, Snap, Crackle, and Pop, and a personal favorite, “I wish I was an Oscar Mayer wiener.”

But sad as it is and with apologies to the just RIF’d staff, it’s all good.

Why? Because hard times breed imaginative solutions. And if anybody can invent creative solutions, it’s us ad people.

Yes, it’s agonizing as hell seeing the enormous change entire industries are lurching through – banking, autos, heavy manufacturing, retail, and consequently advertising. By the way, it only makes sense advertising suffers – we whine that we want to be “total partners” with clients. Well, our dream has come true. Ouch.

But comes now the silver lining speech. Look at the opportunities, bro!

Let’s take costs. You’ve got to cut costs to come even close to a profit these days, but that means you’ll discover where the insidious leaks are. You’re forced to be more efficient, to excise the little morsels of fat still hiding in the corners. This is good because if you’re smart, when things start to rock again there’s no excuse not to stay trim and lean.

Don’t say you can’t cut any more people. Our business is like the elastic waistband in your shorts – it’s designed to stretch as billing increases and contract when business shrinks. If you believe you can’t get the work done if you let one more body go, you’ve either hired the wrong people or your clients aren’t paying you enough. Either way it’s got to be fixed. Fix it!. . . or this problem will repeat itself in the next cycle.

Now here’s a bigger opportunity. In bad times smart folks invent new products or services. This is where the fun is. Dreaming up new media or new ways to use the old stuff; startlingly fresh creative approaches, new markets, new channels. Get your best thinkers in a room and brainstorm until midnight tonight and I’ll bet you’ll come up with plenty of ways to make more money.

I believe these times are filled with opportunity, especially for smaller more nimble agencies not burdened by cabals and intrigue as JWT apparently was.

Which reminds me. . .

A moment of silence, please, for those departed last Mohicans out the door Friday at J. Walter Thompson. I don’t know any personally but stepping out on Michigan Avenue with a Thompson pedigree means they have to be first-rate talented people who’ll certainly find a welcome elsewhere.

Your 2 Cents

Too Pollyannaish? Go ahead, take a shot at me. And does anyone stay until midnight anymore dreaming up new ways for the agency to make money, or are those days as long gone as JWT Chicago’s office?

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Talent is on sale. Some awfully good people have been let go, especially from the bigger firms, and they’re scrambling to land someplace. Now’s your chance to scoop up first-rate experienced people at clearance sale prices. That will help you raise internal bars as well as attract new, perhaps bigger/more sophisticated clients. I’ve written about this before in It’s Time to Hire and The Good News About JWT Closing […]

    Pingback by Smaller Ad Agencies Doing OK So Far « gRantvertising — April 27, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

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