The Changing Ad Agency: Why Shuttering Wexley School For Girls Highlights a New Reality in Creative Services

After 15 years, one of Seattle’s more inventive advertising agencies closes its doors.

MILKING IT: One of Wexley School for Girls’ signature ad campaigns was its five-year-long brand overhaul for Darigold, which included using Darigold’s truck fleet as rolling billboards.

This article appears in print in the April 2018 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

Whither creativity? The unexpected shuttering of Wexley School for Girls, one of Seattle’s more inventive advertising agencies, prompts the question.

The answer lies in a new reality for creative services practitioners. When it announced in January that it would cease operation after 15 years, Wexley cofounder Cal McAllister cited the tendency among corporate clients to keep a lot of creative work in house. Combined with the collapse of the ad agency Creature in 2016, Wexley’s unexpected demise during an economic boom shines a spotlight on  rapid change in the ad/marketing sector.

Jim Copacino, founder and chief creative officer at the agency Copacino + Fujikado in Seattle, sees four key factors driving the move toward in-house creative work.

  • Technology: The means of production have become available and affordable to almost everyone.
  • Media Fragmentation: Corporate marketing executives today have to manage a growing array of communications disciplines: social media, mobile media, search engine marketing, influencer marketing, experiential marketing, reputation management, etc.
  • The Need for Speed: Brands now need to communicate 24/7, often in real time. Digital and traditional work must be created, approved, produced and distributed on accelerated schedules.
  • Talent Acquisition: Larger companies are attracting top talent because of their ability to offer competitive compensation packages and stock awards.

Does this mean the traditional ad agency is doomed?

“Hardly,” says Copacino. “Clients want new ideas, fresh thinking and smart consumer insights that an unbiased, outside firm can provide. It often comes down to ‘the best idea wins,’ whether  from a vendor or an in-house team.”

Copacino admits this evolution makes the job of a midsize Seattle ad shop more challenging. “But it keeps us on our toes and alert to opportunities,” he says. “We find that we frequently work collaboratively with a brand’s in-house specialists — which can actually foster a closer, more adhesive relationship.”

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