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Are Advertising Agencies Still Relevant In Today’s World?

How situations can shape and change our lives.

This itching thought has been on my mind since the past recent years. I myself, am in the advertising circle for one and a half decade and without a doubt, still practising and delivering advertising works using all the platforms of conventional approaches from below-the-line to above-the-line.

In certain manners, old is gold and some “ancient” methods are still relevant for example, advertising principles. Advertising principles are fine as long as it delivers and achieves the client’s objectives. But most of today’s advertising approach has progressively changed and replacing the landscape of traditional advertising, in ways advertising and practitioners themselves were not ready for the change.

Twenty-five years ago, I settled for art and design but didn’t instantly practice what I learned. I opted for a different career path and spent eight years working in several industries. Eventually, I finally decided to do my own design and printing business that only ran for a year. Things took a major turn as my late father fell sick and was diagnosed with meningitis and was completely bedridden.

Saddened by his passing a year after, I continued my design career in Johor but it wasn’t easy as advertising was not well grasped by the community at large, so I decided to go back to Kuala Lumpur for better prospects. Here’s where the twist of fate began. And before anyone sees this as an effort of a novel writing, I’m actually sharing views on how situations can shape and change our lives. I believe we all must have our own life-changing experiences.

Before coming back to KL, I knew I had to compete with other designers who were more attuned in the latest design software. The circumstances made me think of making a career change, but still within the realm of advertising. Analyzing the bigger picture of advertising, I was set on the role of a copywriter. My justification was that both my parents were teachers of the English and Bahasa language, so I figured it could probably be in the bloodline and that it wouldn’t hurt to try regardless of my learning background.

In KL, I went on a series of interviews and landed a copywriter position with an organization at Jalan Tun Razak. It lasted for a year as I was compelled to learn more about copywriting in the many aspects of advertising. A local agency offered me the opportunity and I took it. I spent three years learning the trades from two individuals who were previously attached to McCann Eriksson and Leo Burnett; two of the big names in the industry that changed my whole perspective on advertising. And that was my second career change.

As we return to our topic ‘Are Advertising Agencies Still Relevant?’, I’m pretty sure times have changed. I hear things on how printing jobs are no longer the bundles of joy, how the Internet has taken over advertising and promotion approach, and how designers have to adapt to the web designing world in order to pursue their design experience. Methods have changed.

We are creatures of habit and have been known to adapt to changes since the beginning of time. Today, we face and use technology in its entire form and made it part of our lives. We sink into the whole web thingy and google almost everything. We have changed the ways of ‘doing’ things such as reading from our desktops, mobiles and tabs, purchasing and paying ‘stuff’ online, and integrate digital solutions to assist us in our daily work. Even digital banking has made its way across borders, industries and conventional banks. So, if physical banks are slowly being digitally replaced, how does advertising agencies remain relevant in a digital environment?

The only reasonable solution is to get on the bandwagon and walk in the path of technology. What must remain is our dignity and human values. Everything else has been taken over by tech support to help us streamline and get things done fast. We’re frequently reminded of how we live in the fast lane and with technology, we have a lot of catching up to do or we’ll surely be left behind. The same goes for advertising and everyone involved in it.

Colleges have made the effort to adjust their students to technology demands and make sure they are up to speed. Even few agencies have made the shift to utilizing social media through various digital platforms for advertising and promotional purposes. Agencies are downsizing by replacing the old with the new. So, what happens to old school designers, creative and art directors, printers? Are they still in the game? They can if they change.

I’ve been freelancing for a number of years and still went for interviews hoping to land a position as Content Strategist in a FinTech environment. That was my objective; to change role from a Copywriter to Content Strategist. 2019 opened up that door and now I am as what I wish to be. The only thing left is learning the trades of a content strategist and how to engage my audiences.

Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong. Change is the end result of all true learning. There’s no easy way of saying it but we all need to Change.

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Zul Jalal
Written By

Continuing 15 years with advertising and freelancing, Zul Jalal is a creative communications writer, creative director, blogger, and a drummer, depending on the role of the job acquired. When we put things into perspective, others can be inspired to grow and expand. Follow him on his Instagram and LinkedIn.

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