Is Apple the canary in Madison Avenue’s coal mine?

“Tor Myhren, the former creative director of Grey Advertising, was just poached by Apple to be its VP of Communications,” Avi Dan writes for Forbes. “The news has stunned Madison Avenue more than any agency acquisition or new business wins in recent years. And, in the end, it may have more to say about the future of the ad agency model.”

“This jaw dropping announcement is striking. Myhren is not just a bold-type agency name: He is considered by many to be the best creative director on Madison Avenue,” Dan writes. “I do not recall one other instance of where a top notch creative director joined an Advertiser to head an internal in-house agency. And make no mistake about it. Apple is building an in-house agency and, like everything else it builds, it aims at building the best agency, period. In recent months, it started hiring a slew of first-rate art directors and copywriters, and it’s moving more and more creative assignments in-house from its long-time agency, TBWA. Bringing in Myhren as de-facto creative director of its agency caps the formation of what may be the most awesome creative group anywhere, on or off Madison Avenue.”

“Apple, is the most influential American company. Reaching out to Madison Avenue and recruiting Myhren and other well-known creative luminaries is a game changer,” Dan writes. “I believe that more companies will follow suit and enlist top creative directors to head their internal creative teams. And that would be disruptive for traditional ad agencies.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As if Madison Avenue needed any more canaries.

Apple’s executive changes hint at an even greater level of vertical integration to come – December 19, 2015
Global creative icon Tor Myhren leaves Grey for Apple – December 18, 2015
Apple assigns App Store oversight to Phil Schiller in apparent nod to developer issues – December 18, 2015
CEO Cook shakes up Apple’s management – December 17, 2015
Apple names Jeff Williams Chief Operating Officer, other executive additions and changes – December 17, 2015


  1. MDN take: complete 3rd grade nonsense.

    Madison Avenue (aka the advertising industry) is in fine shape and doesn’t need pipsqueak opinions from MDN, the site that drowns you in click bait advertising.

    It’s very expensive to have an in-house ad agency. Most companies can’t afford that luxury. So, I don’t
    think ad agencies are going anywhere just yet.

    And, who is going to be the creative arbitrator when you are trying to judge the efficacy of your advertising? if your management is in love with what you’re doing there will never be a critical eye on the output of your department.

    1. What is the difference from today? You still have the senior management that makes the decisions. More often than not, Madison Ave ad agency’s advice gets overruled by the company management, for better or worse.

      One could argue that having an in-house creative manager who is a part of the senior management team might give the ad team greater influence with the rest of the management; after all, an independent ad agency can only argue so far without the risk of losing the client on the account of ‘creative differences’…

    2. Related “quotes” from the past:

      The portable music player industry is in fine shape.
      The netbook industry is in fine shape.
      The mobile industry is in fine shape.
      The PC industry is in fine shape.
      The watch industry is in fine shape.
      The camera industry is in fine shape.

    3. “It’s very expensive to have an in-house ad agency. Most companies can’t afford that luxury.”

      No, just the biggest and best. (ie: all the accounts Madison Venue cares about.)

      1. The biggest, almost by definition, is seldom the best. Quality takes attention to detail that mass-market companies including Apple can never achieve.

        As for advertising, the latest Apple ads are so uninformative and banal that they don’t raise anyone’s attention, let alone explain what makes Apple any better than any other product. Even the super-inexpensive Hodgeman/Long ads caught everyone’s attention while informing the user what’s the difference between Apple and the other guy. The majority of the world no longer knows what makes Apple better — because in many cases, the competition has not only caught up but actually surpassed Apple. For example, iLife and iWork used to be competitive in 2009. Now they are a complete joke. Features like Handoff don’t work reliably, so Apple can’t tout it. Apple Music is the same as the other 4+ streaming music rental stores (but with an inferior interface), so there’s no clear reason Apple can claim to be better. ATV4 is easily outclassed by any other current player in all objective areas, so that’s dead in the water. And since Apple doesn’t have any market-leading professional products left, then you won’t see any advertising there either. Seriously, Cook does only one thing: push iPhones. The rest of the Apple businesses are definitely falling behind.

        1. Good point about how Apple is becoming a “One Trick Pony” with just the iPhone … the ecosystem of OS X is in seriously deep trouble from the lack of attention (corporate priorities) – not only the OS and hardware but also of ecosystem software such as iLife (ditto Aperture, etc) which was what actually made the product different & compelling (& thus worth paying more for versus Windows).

          Insofar as this advertising bit, I think that there’s a far, far simpler explanation: SECRECY. Apple’s pockets right now are deep and they’re willing to pay for it.

        2. “ATV4 is easily outclassed by any other current player in all objective areas, so that’s dead in the water.”

          The killer TV service may not have launched with the ATV4 and I somewhat agree with a lot of the other things you said, but I still don’t think this statement holds water. I’ve owned every generation of AppleTV (Actually was looking at my 1st gen with a HD earlier today in a box) including the ATV4, as well as Roku, and I’ve used a Fire and Chromebox. ATV4 holds itself well against all the others, and with additional “channels” being added via the app store I see content parity coming quickly. Add the game aspect of the ATV4 and the others can’t even begin to follow.

  2. Apple will change the game again. How many other companies have access to a Billion mobile screens to drop ads onto in any creative way that they think will be best?

  3. Once again Apple shows that it may take time, but eventually they fix issues with mind-blowingly brilliant big fixes.

    In the 90s, their hardware mix.
    In the early 2000s, the OS.
    Then their dependance on professional users.
    Then poor retail presence (with the Apple Stores).
    Then their dependance on chip makers.
    Now their recent lacklustre advertising.

    1. There was a time when Apple didn’t have the cash to do all things in-house and well.

      Today Cook has absolutely no excuses why Apple can’t offer better hardware options, a more user-friendly OS, valuable professional-level products, comprehensive retail presence, productive partnerships with chipmakers and content owners, and meaningful advertising ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

      Cook instead has put all his eggs in the iOS luxury market while the Mac platform, retail, pro markets, and so forth all go stale.

  4. This makes perfect sense for Apple. Steve Jobs traditionally filled this role. With his passing in 2011 no one has stepped up to fill the void. Jonny Ive and his team focuses on products. As for other companies doing this not only will it not happen it can’t happen. There is no other company in the world that puts such emphasis on the creative and design end of its business. For all other businesses these things are not core to their business. For Apple style is at its core.

  5. I’ve read these articles for a while and their river of comments. I see a clash of sensibilities. There are those who uncritically appreciate what Apple has achieved, with alacrity. I suppose these are the fanboys, the hypnotised, the iSheep. And then there are those who resent Apple for throwing them over, for abandoning certain sacred principles of design, for snubbing their professions. Also, there are an unorganised gang of vandals who enjoy vilifying Apple because it’s fun to pick on people anonymously and get away with it. Some of them used to get paid for it by Apple competitors. Then there are planted stories and comments fomented by stock market activists. And finally, there are a hundred million people who don’t comment at all because they are simply enjoying the use of their Apple products and have actual lives.

    Is that about right?

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