Book Review: Frenemies by Ken Auletta
If you are at all familiar with the advertising business (and if you are reading this post, I’m assuming you are), then the premise of Ken Auletta’s new book Frenemies is painfully familiar: the decline of the Mad Men and the emergence of Quants that have undermined the traditional agency by automating most of the marketing process. So, is there anything new in the book that would make it worth an industry insider’s attention?
If you’ve heard of Auletta it’s because of his column in The New Yorker, where he chronicles the entertainment and media industries with wit and vigor. In Frenemies, he gives a handy history lesson on the roots of advertising in 1950s America, an era that feels wistfully distant in his telling. What exists today is a shifting landscape of ad agencies, savvy clients, digital giants like Google and emerging digital consultancies backed by powerhouses like McKinsey or Accenture – all of them competing for the attention of dazed, increasingly jaded and tuned out consumers.
It’s a bleak landscape and Auletta isn’t offering an easy answers. In fact, his own book is a victim to the very changes he chronicles – in an extensive interview with WPP’s Martin Sorrell, he is described as “secure in his role” as the CEO of the global conglomerate. In the time it took to typeset and publish his book, Sorrell was gone.