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Ten Ad Agency Survival Tips for the Great Recession

Posted by: David Kiley on July 27, 2009


By Rob Strasberg
Strasberg is vice chairman and chief creative officer of Doner, Southfield, MI

We’re all new to this “New Economy,” but there are a few tactics that can help you not only get thru it but look good doing it.

Tip 1: Get to know your CFO – Today the CFO is the new CEO. A great idea isn’t a great idea unless it gets made, so invite the CFO to the creative presentation. Get them involved, get them excited, get the balance sheet tipped in your favor.

Tip 2: Find the Entrepreneur Within – Within you and within your company. We all say it, but do we all live it? Is risk-taking a part of your culture? Are you set up so the next agency/industry-changing idea can come from anywhere? Are you knocking down all roadblocks to great work? Our most important role is to make it easy for brilliant ideas to live. Let the entrepreneurs know you’re about clearing a path for them.

Tip 3: Write Blogs – They don’t cost anything and if you’re lucky, a reputable business publication will pick one up and share your views with the world for free. They’re also a great way to tip-off potential new clients that you’re social-media savvy. Twitter counts as a blog in my book so Tweet away. No CFO will question your spending because there won’t be any.

Tip 4: Check your ego at the door – None of us are beyond questioning. None of us are irreplaceable. We all have to stay true to the habits that made us successful. Smart thinking. Hard working. Good listening. The process to great work will never change. It’s more likely you will. Some very large egos got us into a very large economic mess because of their inflated self-perceptions. It’s probably a good idea to pop yours daily.

Tip 5: Share Supplies – You’d be amazed how far a pen can go. Don’t lose your notebooks. Napkins are still the best idea catchers. So your client doesn’t have the money for that big campaign? Bring ideas they can afford and bring lots of them. When the economy comes back, they’ll remember that you were the one that didn’t just tighten your belt, but used a smarter belt.

Tip 6: Use your free time for good. It’s free! – When the going gets tough the tough should get going in their community. Don’t just look inward. Step out and create something that could make a difference. Ideas are your specialty. Why not share some? Or roll up the sleeves and build a callous or two. You’ll feel great and any negative energy toward the recession can be reverse-engineered into a positive. And not surprisingly, that usually finds it’s way into the bottom line.

Tip 7: Do more with less – I was going to write 10 survival tricks for the great recession but didn’t want to be excessive. In these times that’s bad business and, well, distasteful.

Reader Comments


July 29, 2009 12:56 PM

Tip #1 should be Rule #1. The problem though is marketers do not speak finance. What are the income sheet and balance sheet implications for the client? How long can you depreciate the marketing expense? How does this campaign increase or decrease the customer lifetime value? What is the payback period? And the list of questions continues.

In my experience, very few marketers can speak this language. Rare as a unicorn is the account executive and creative director from the advertising agency who have clue how to interpret those numbers.

Ideas are free. Campaigns cost money. And if you cannot interpret a NPV table, get the hell out of the office.


July 30, 2009 1:18 PM

As you stated we are all new to this "New" economy and these tips are great. Blogs are a great way to promote one's self or a business and getting more involved with co-workers, such as a CFO, is always a good idea.
Michelle Chun-Hoon
CKR Interactive Intern

Copy Queen

July 31, 2009 5:26 PM

At Stinson Brand Innovation, we're constantly encouraged to step out of our comfort zone and take calculated risks. Having been raised by 2 risk-adverse parents and coming from a science background, it's really expanded my ability to create, change, and adapt. See our blog at:

Mark Nicholson

August 19, 2009 6:25 PM

Within the Socioconomy there are new opps for services to offer clients. As I mentioned at there is a side of social media worth regarding.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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