Y&R boss Sable is proud to be the boss of an ad agency (as opposed to a digital something or other)

What we used to call advertising agencies (and mostly still do) have always had naming problems. There’s a perennial fear that advertising is old hat, that the future is something else and the name of the ‘agency’ had better reflect this.

So, at various times, we’ve had ‘through the line’ agencies (ones which do advertising and sales promotion), ‘marketing’ agencies (ones which do advertising and, er, sales promotion and sometimes direct marketing) and, of course, digital agencies (even though many ad agencies do digital too).

Now we have numerous ‘integrated’ agencies, agencies that do advertising and digiital (and some other stuff) but in a seamless way (they hope). DDB London, the UK outpost of what was once the iconic Us agency Doyle Dane Bernbach and, before that, the celebrated Boase Massimi Pollitt, now refers to itself as an integrated agency, having absorbed digital outfit Tribal into the main agency.

None of these alternative names sound very exciting, which is one of the problems.

Another is that such anxieties over nomenclature suggest a business which is far too prone to chase the latest fashion (currently digital technology) for its own sake.

New Young & Rubicam CEO David Sable (who himself comes from direct marketer Wunderman) tackles this issue head on in his regular blog ‘the weekly ramble’ for the Huffington Post. As he says, it’s timely to consider the issue in New York’s Advertising Week.

His particular point is that it’s stupid to be too concerned about what the latest technology can offer when the real job is to use that and all the other skills agencies possess to create meaning out of this tidal wave of data.

“Creating meaning out of information has always been the core of what we do. Creating and telling stories. Creating and nurturing connections. We’ve got to be careful not to be so in love with the tools today (and they are eminently attractive – I get that) that we forget they are really the means not the end.”

And there’s much more besides. but he makes his point well.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.