It’s not every day B&T spruiks a book launch, but today a fresh advertising title has hit the stands, and it details the history of agency land during its best decades: the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Behind Glass Doors ventures into their offices to reveal the inner workings of the Australian advertising agency business, where the hours were demanding but the pay was good, and the boozy lunches were even better.
Australia’s advertising agencies enjoyed their reputation as a glamorous and fun place to work. Not surprisingly, many of the nation’s brightest and most creative young people were drawn to advertising.
Drawing on interviews with over a hundred former admen and women across all agency departments, this study offers unprecedented access to the changing world of the advertising agency.
It documents the different tasks performed by agency staff – from managing increasingly powerful clients to creating memorable campaigns – as well as the ways that these practices brought Australian agencies into closer contact with international trends and developments.
Behind Glass Doors: The World of Australian Advertising Agencies 1959-1989, was written by Jackie Dickenson & Robert Crawford, who commented, “Based on interviews with over 120 people who worked across all departments in the agency, Behind Glass Doors is the first study of the everyday operations of Australia’s advertising agencies as well as their connections with the global advertising industry.”
You can read a couple of excerpts of the book here:
As the advertising agencies came to be seen as more professional and worldly in their outlook and practices, they were able to satisfy the advertisers’ expectations. Ultimately, the agency’s successful repositioning of themselves as glamorous partners rather than mere service-providers to their clients created a ‘golden age’ for Australian advertising agencies and, in particular, the managers and the creatives. 5 Introduction It was not, of course, a ‘golden age’ for everyone.
The changes affecting agency operations meant that employees in certain departments were becoming vulnerable. Account service staff saw their status slowly erode as clients and agency management placed a new emphasis on creative work, while support staff, such as tea ladies and lift operators, fell victim to the agencies’ drive for greater profitability. Others struggled with the prevailing agency culture.
Australian advertising’s hyper-masculine environment meant that the agency could be a challenging and difficult workplace for women. Few rose through the ranks, fewer still found their way into senior positions within the agency hierarchy.
Advertising’s glory days were fleeting. The forces that enabled advertising to grow from a cottage industry to a global enterprise would also consume it. As agencies adopted a more professional approach to their work, so too did their clients. Advertisers were also training staff.
The appointment of marketing managers and, later, brand managers to oversee their marketing strategy would have a significant impact on their relationship with the agency. As the managing directors focused on running their businesses, they left it to their marketing experts to deal with the agency.
With less money and influence, advertising’s glamour began to fade. Globalisation similarly eroded the status of Australian advertising agencies.