The Ad Collective®

Putting The Industry Back Into Advertising

The marketplace we live in has never been more fiercely fought. Brands struggling to get their ideas heard. The slightest advantage and percentage points can be worth billions of dollars. Countless channels, infinite media choices, fickle customers who are smart and don’t want to be patronised. Brands need to get their promise to their customers. Much confusion over how to do that.

The demand for our attention is extreme. And extreme is the pressure on the industry that serves it. Let’s define that industry as Advertising & Media. And let’s say, for brevity, that Advertising makes the ads and media gets these ads in front of the right audiences.

Our contention is that the industry, as we knew it, is beyond repair. And focus for two minutes on the ‘as we knew it’ bit.

One of the unsung hero’s of the industry is John Wanamaker. He had his detractors and was at times controversial but John Wanamaker was a pioneer.

  • He was the first retailer to place a half-page ad in a newspaper. That was in 1874.
  • He then became the first retailer to place a full-page ad. That was in 1879. That may seem a slow pace of innovation by our standards but, give the man a break, it was the 19th Century.
  • Initially he wrote his own ad copy, but a bit later he hired the world’s first full-time copywriter — John Emory Powers.

With Powers’ copy Wanamaker’s revenues doubled. They went from $4 million to $8 million. A princely sum in those days and proved, beyond any doubt, the value of creative copy.

John Wanamaker was clearly an innovator. He had insight too. He said — “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half…” — John Wanamaker

By today’s standards the ads may seem quaint. But they were also right for their times. A great example of being clear and relevant was this line — “One price and goods returnable”. Got it!

He didn’t invent the fixed price system but he is credited for inventing the price tag. He certainly popularized it. Because by then he was very widely distributed and well known. The ‘tag’ became the industry standard.

Not stopping there he created the money-back guarantee — now standard business practice.

And he was a pioneer beyond Advertising and marketing.

He gave his employees free medical care, education, recreational facilities, pensions and profit-sharing plans. Long before such benefits were considered standard. So, he was a disruptor. He was an inventor. He realised that things needed to be done and he did them. And now nearly a century and half later (140 years) we are ready to move it up a gear.

In surprising ways, given such a creative industry, this is one of the last industries resisting the inevitable. That maybe because of romantic notions of craft creative skills and irreplaceable human relationships.

We remain open on that. We point to incredible progress in all forms of technology. Technology that’s mimicking humans and outperforming them in almost every field.


Weare really optimistic about these technologies being tools for humans and not replacing them. And like all those thinking broadly about innovation in this sector we take the side of the client.

Clients wants effective and high value return on investment in every aspect of the business. So if he can plug into communities, platforms and solutions/services that move John Wanamakers 50% nearer to 95% (or even higher) then he will listen.

This is why the big management consultancies are buying creative agencies and media firms. It’s why the ad agencies are desperately looking to shed costs — and it’s why we’ve launched the AdCollective®

John Caswell