Commentary

Updated: 50 Years Ago 'Advertising Age' Was The Bible Of The Ad Industry, Says It Still Is

Editor's Note: This column has been updated to reflect a denial by Ad Age's publisher that the magazine is on the block. A correction has been published here.

Well, that was fast. In response to an earlier version of RTBlog based on an unconfirmed tip that Crain Communications has put flagship Ad Age up for sale, President and Publisher Josh Golden has contacted us to say the tip is "categorically false."

So that answers my question about why the Crain family would put the 90-year-old magazine/website up for sale in the middle of multiple national crises including what could prove to be the worst economy since the Great Depression. They're not.

The rest of this column stands, especially the anecdote I retold about my first meeting with Rance Crain when I joined Advertising Age as a reporter in the early 1990s. Rance, who has since divested of his share of Crain to his brother Keith's side of the family, was then head of the magazine his father founded at the start of the Great Depression.

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“You know, Joe,” he confided in me, “50 years ago today, Printers’ Ink was the bible of the ad industry.”

That anecdote struck me for a couple of reasons. One was I had never heard of Printers’ Ink. Another was it made me think about the nature of media permanence. Keep in mind, this was in the days when print media still ruled the day, and on my first day at Ad Age, then editor Fred Danzig took me into the magazine’s “morgue” -- a room full of green filing cabinets containing decades of yellowed magazine clippings -- and as he thumbed through the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s, I turned to him and said, “You know, Fred, many of those headlines could be written today.”

I guess the point of this column is the notion that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Forty years after I began covering the ad industry for then startup Adweek, many of the stories I’m covering -- the “demise” of the upfront, the need to protect consumers from the overreaches of advertising and media, and the role that political media and marketing play in causing social and political divisiveness -- are the same.

Sure, most of those stories are printed on computer servers and not printing presses, but remarkably, the underlying issues confronting the advertising industry remain the same, and the most sustainable parts of the industry have more to do with culture than individual men and women.

I now know the tip I heard about Ad Age will not come to fruition, so that means MediaPost still is the second longest-reigning, family-owned advertising and media trade publisher.

It’s also worth noting that its founder -- Ken Fadner was one of the partners who founded Adweek in 1980 -- and I’m still working for him.

So far.

3 comments about "Updated: 50 Years Ago 'Advertising Age' Was The Bible Of The Ad Industry, Says It Still Is".
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  1. Alvin Silk from Harvard Business School, July 6, 2020 at 11:04 a.m.

    Youer column rtodau is a much appreciated by we surviving dinasours-- I claim that status on grounds that asa fledging acemic in adverftising and marketing circa 1963,
    I subscribed to Printer's Ink, MediaScope, and ADWEEK--- until the end, and contiune to this day with Ad Age Age and MediaPost' outstanding stabke of daily offerings. To your list of eternal advertising challenges I would add: intrusiveness and inattention, fear of waste, and confkicted about accountability/ 

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, July 6, 2020 at 11:33 a.m.

    @Alvin Silk: Thanks for sticking with MediaPost. Who remembers Marketing & Media Decisions (Media Decisions), Ad Forum, Media People, etc.? I was saddened to see the end of TV Week (formerly Electronic Media), which at one time rivaled Ad Age as the flagship inside Crain Communications.

    P.S. We have updated the original column with a correction noting that the publisher has denied Ad Age is up for sale.

  3. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics, July 13, 2020 at 4:37 p.m.

    The most interesting thing you note is that we are looking at, saying and asking about the same things as 40 years ago.  Does advertising work?  Which half does or doesn't? What is my ROI? Imagine if this were true in medicine, or engineering, or chemistry or any other field of knowledge. 

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