What I Learned During My 4-Year Retirement

It's a changing business perfect for well-positioned indie agencies

Four years ago, I embraced the first steps toward what I expected to be a happy transition to retirement. It didn't take.

I longed for the challenges of business, the thrill of being part of a creative team, and the satisfaction that comes from translating the benefits of a client's product or service into a compelling story that moves consumers to action. 

Most of all, I sought the daily camaraderie and intellectual stimulation that comes from being in the arena. 

Nine months ago—three months before the pandemic choked the marketplace as we knew it—I bought back my eponymous advertising agency which had I sold to IPG. Timing is everything.

What's changed? What's the same? How are we approaching advertising in the age of Covid-19, where a virtual world is our new reality and consumers have lurched from predictable behaviors to a multitude of new and heretofore unimaginable rituals?

The biggest change can be defined in one word: speed. Everything moves faster today—dramatically faster than even a few years ago. 

Clients want instant analysis. Consumers want their needs met NOW. Supply chains have been turbocharged. Marketing solutions are quickly launched and refined during execution.

The pace of life has quickened. But human beings still take joy in the fundamental things that have made us happy since we became bi-peds and developed the ability to speak—friends, family, love and play.
Fortunately, the communication and analytical tools to meet the demand for these human verities are more readily available, more easily manipulated and offer greater likelihood for generating success than ever before. 

The technological revolution that has made virtually everyone under the age of 40 a digital maven has both driven down the cost of these tools and ratcheted up the level of expertise of those marketers who can now skillfully wield them in support of their clients' products and services. 

Today's advertising practitioners are smarter and more resourceful. They are not just comfortable with today's communications tools—they've mastered them. 

They work faster. They're often impatient—a trait often mirrored by their clients. 

Most important, they embrace their values and demand they be reflected in their work, their workplace and their work relationships. 

That's healthy for business and for society. It affords a marked improvement over the more structured, hierarchical management of the recent past. And it places the onus for trust and credibility on both management and the people who actually do the work.

Also important, the embrace of values reflects what consumers seek above all else: honesty and integrity, which lead to product credibility and trust. 

Advertising is more complex than ever before. Platforms have proliferated and will continue to multiply. Consumers must be engaged across the variety of communications they use, and the creative solutions for each must often be unique—created for that specific medium—or highly customized. 

Evaluating the efficacy of our efforts is more easily quantified. But effective creative is stubbornly non-formulaic. It remains magical and is the lifeblood of effective campaigns. It rightfully pervades media, connections, strategy and account management. Agencies must even be creative in how they deploy talent. 

Our clients want breakthrough brand and product campaigns. They seek to measure every aspect of their efficacy so they can quickly discard poor-performing creative. Today, we can readily access data, refine it, analyze it and apply metrics that yield insights to consumer behavior and persuasion. Creative is still king, but data often decides who wears the crown. 

A 40-year trend toward consolidation and centralization has met a tidal shift of culture, technology and the marketplace mandate of immediacy—all of which favors the well-positioned, independent advertising agency. 

Our approach to clients is empathetic, grounded in the humility that our clients know best what their problems are. We strive for client/agency partnerships marked by transparency, candor and collaboration which are fundamental to our process of creating solutions that drive our clients' business success. 

Independents must be smart, nimble, focused, aggressive, strategic and wise. Fitzco is all of that. 

That's why I bought back the company I founded 37 years ago. That's the shop we are. That's the solution we bring. It's good to be back.

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Dave Fitzgerald
Dave Fitzgerald is the founder and CEO of Fitzco, a newly independent agency in Atlanta that he founded in 1983.

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