The Conglomerization of Creativity (and Why it Scares Me).

I live in Kansas City, and we boast a wonderful marquee destination called The Country Club Plaza. It’s said to be the nation’s first outdoor shopping area, and so beautiful that it’s a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Thousands come to see it decked in festive lights at Christmastime, while in warmer months, its restaurants are brimming with diners and sidewalks jammed with shoppers. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

Well, yes. And no. To those of us who remember the Plaza as it used to be — before it was “conglomerized,” it’s lost some edge. Prior to that, our beloved Plaza was home to mostly local and regional shops, scores of incredible independent restaurants, and a prestige department store or two. But a sale by family ownership to an out of town management group took care of that. Today, it’s pretty much like Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, or even more sad, New York’s once Bohemian SoHo. Like these, our Plaza has become one of those generic “destinations.”

This formulated experience has been researched and relaunched to appeal to as many folks as possible. Young, old, hip, not, gay, straight, hey, there’s something for you. Now, no matter what city you visit, you can have pretty much the same shopping and dining experience in one city as another. Want to buy a piece of clothing that isn’t sold in 100 other shops across the country? Want to sample daily repast from a local restaurant? Happy hunting. Welcome to BlandLandia.

The same kind of conglomerization is happening in America’s advertising arena. What was once a creative sandbox of an industry where bright thinkers, imaginative creatives and aggressive sales people ruled has become the playground of the highest bidder.

Why should you care? Because conglomerization just may spell Blandlandia for your Brand. One thing that could happen once all the independents have been gobbled up by a few big firms is that all the originality that made them appealing in the first place could get lost in the chewing. Will the similar processes, similar philosophies and similar approaches yield similar solutions? One approach fits all?

Sounds about as appealing as dinner from a chain restaurant while wearing the same skinny jeans as everyone else. Me, I vote for the originals, the independents, the pioneers who dare to think for themselves and offer up fresh solutions, tailor made for each individual client.

Your brand deserves it. As does your stomach. And your backside.