Creative X (and I will make a bold assessment here that's not his/her real name) claimed yesterday that the ad industry is becoming nameless. While I get his/her point that collaboration, new media formats, and an evolving industry relationships are changing what an industry name means today vs. in David Oglvy's time (oops, I used a name), the whole observation strikes me as naive.
Names matter. Otherwise, this person wouldn't put Bogusky in the title. From what I've seen, the industry is as name-driven as they were in the past, albeit the names are different: in place of the old boys Goodby, Weiden, or Lubars we now have Nick Law, Jeff Benjamin or Ben Palmer. The truth is, it won't evolve differently. Simply replacing one group of individuals with another, only gets us entangled in the tired old debates of idea vs. execution, "who owns what" and who should have won in Cannes.
What we are really asking here is not the question of names/namelessness but of the value attributed to them. And when we enter the territory of value, we start talking about appraisals, prizes, and prices associated with the individuals: or, about the tangible questions of talent, awards, and monetary compensations. The critical difference with the tired names debate is this question is not simply another industry navel-gazing exercise. In fact, it's not the ad industry that defines value attribution. It's everyone else around it: the clients, the media, and the consumers.
This industry has been grappling with the definitions of its own value for quite some time. It's also been dealing with the interpretations of how and where to find value in its changing environment. This is mostly because its value judgement found itself at odds with everything else around it. Just think about all the obsolete ways of evaluating consumer behavior; the unjustified value attributed to fitting storytelling into technology; and the equally obsolete value judgements about campaigns' budget allocation, timing, and success metrics. Where is value? We won't find out if our debates stick to Names, Whose Idea Was It, and An Honest Letter to The Industry type of things.
The real challenge is to come up with the new metric of what's valuable: what and how to praise, award, and pay. The new metric come from evaluative criteria that are not discrepant and irreconcilable with the value judgment of those the ad industry is working for and making money off, like they are now - as the amount of bad advertising shows. If there's anything to learn from startups and tech cos, that's how to be more aligned with the environment, and how to extract value because of it. The focus on customer experience, openness, dynamic budget allocation, and new marketing success criteria are some examples. They offer access to the alternative - and because of it, incredibly valuable - judgments made by consumers and by technology.
The main takeaway from the digital ecosystem is not that names don't matter (because that's simply not true) but about the new metrics for valuing things, processes - and yes, people. It's safe to say that in the future there will be people whose names are going to be more prized, paid, and recognized than others. That's not going to change. What is changing is how we get there.