Madison Avenue Manslaughter


Michael Farmer, a respected business strategist with 25 years of experience in the advertising industry, documents the dizzying heights of the original Mad Men days and the long, steady slide to today.

He outlines the step-by-step process that led agencies into their current strategic trap, caught between fee-cutting clients and profit-hungry owners.

He offers key insights into how senior agency executives can restore their agencies to health and deliver improved results to their clients, liberating them from the gloom of Madison Avenue’s Manslaughter.

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About The Author

Michael Farmer

Michael Farmer is Chairman of Farmer & Company LLC, a strategy consulting firm for advertising agencies and advertisers.

He graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Business School before working for The Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company around the world.

He has lived and worked in Rio de Janeiro, Lausanne, Munich, Paris, Istanbul and London. He currently resides in New York City.



Today’s Mad Men celebrate new clients and creative awards just like the Mad Men of yesteryear, with champagne, parties and laudatory speeches, but the resemblance and the fun stop there. Returning to their daily routines, ad agency people put on a brave face, struggle with increasing workloads and demanding clients, and feel like players on a losing team, unable to break out or at least pull even with their clients as respected, secure partners. The advertising business, which was once one of the most fulfilling and glamorous of industries has become a grim sweatshop for the people who do the work.

What has happened over the past few decades to bring this about? How did remuneration, globalization, new ownership, shareholder value and digital and social media bring about a decline in the fortunes of today’s advertising agencies?

Michael Farmer, a respected business strategist with 25 years of experience in the advertising industry, documents the dizzying heights of the original Mad Men days and the long, steady slide to today. He outlines the step-by-step process that led agencies into their current strategic trap, caught between fee-cutting clients and profit-hungry owners. He offers key insights into how senior agency executives can restore their agencies to health and deliver improved results to their clients, liberating them from the gloom of Madison Avenue’s Manslaughter.

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The Testimonials

John Seifert, Chairman and CEO, Ogilvy & Mather

“ Required reading for everyone in the business of buying and making market-ing communications. If both agencies and clients followed Michael’s advice – and his methods – the marketing world would not just be a better place. The work would be smarter, more cost effective, and more rewarding for everyone involved.”

Ken Auletta, New Yorker media critic, journalist and best-selling author

“ A good, swift kick in the butt is medicine every legacy business needs, though rarely welcomes. Michael Farmer administers the kick deftly, backed by years of experience and data. This readable book is a wake-up call for marketers and advertisers.”

Deborah Wahl, Chief Marketing Officer, McDonald’s USA

“A great and engrossing read. This book is as relevant for advertisers as it is for agencies. After years of CMO tenure declining faster than agency turnover, the work of the CMO has had to refocus on delivering brand growth and profitability. This book highlights how our most valuable partners can refocus, too, and develop a more productive partnership to master the challenges of the VUCA world in which we operate.”

Financial Times

“ In his damning critique of the modern advertising industry, Michael Farmer warns that a dismal combination of technological change and the short-term drive for profit is killing creativity... For any young creative inspired by the lifestyle of ad campaigns and cocktails depicted in the TV series Mad Men, the book is a sobering read.”

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