Madison Avenue Could Learn From NBA

Offensive Karma aside, the Dallas Mavericks beating the Miami Heat offered hard lessons for Madison Avenue.

Since the late 1980s at least, Madison Avenue has been a fan of growth through acquisition, despite convincing evidence that organic growth is a better game plan. Yet the advertising industry—particularly the major holding companies—continue the insane practice of buying and merging firms, thinking it will spark instant success. Agencies are even virtually hatched from scratch, with players hastily assembled and ordered to perform like a championship team.

Check out the Miami Heat, and view the franchise’s maneuvers in relation to Madison Avenue. First, the core squad was built quickly via free agency, an acquisition scheme with high expectations. But there really wasn’t a clear vision for making it all work. Individuals weren’t sure about their roles. How many newfangled agencies have launched with equally fuzzy blueprints that led to internal confusion and disorganization?

Additionally, the leadership (i.e., Head Coach Erik Spoelstra and his staff) did not have the experience necessary to make the enterprise succeed. Past achievements were irrelevant to the present-day needs. In short, management handed the reins to the wrong guys for the wrong reasons—and ultimately got the wrong results.

Finally, the Miami Heat introduced the new team as a dynasty before it had won a single game, mirroring Madison Avenue shops’ penchant for declaring themselves an “Agency of the Future” before any ads have been produced. The Miami Heat is the Draftfcb-Enfatico-Victor & Spoils of the NBA.

The Dallas Mavericks presented a sharp contrast, and Madison Avenue should take note of this franchise too. First, the core squad was started 12 years ago with the drafting of Dirk Nowitzki. While the process may have appeared long and arduous, management brought in the right pieces to supplement and support the foundation. It must also be recognized that Nowitzki was committed to enhancing and developing his own skills, as well as improving the team.

Expert leadership with a positive track record (i.e., Head Coach Rick Carlisle and his staff) delivered action steps and strategic focus. The team was charged with specific responsibilities and given proper guidance and resources to reach the goals. Every individual knew and understood his role. In short, management handed the reins to the right guys and let them do their thing. Why, the historically distracting owner, Mark Cuban, actually stepped out of the process for the sake of the team.

Finally, besides Jason Terry’s trophy tattoo, the Dallas Mavericks let the box scores do the talking. They didn’t crown themselves a “Team of the Future” before the season opener. Indeed, the squad embraced the fundamentals and wore their old-school ways as a badge of honor.

The good news for the Miami Heat is their destiny will probably be rosier than that of the self-proclaimed wunderkinds of Madison Avenue—primarily because they are not as inherently ignorant as the standard Mad Man. The team will learn from their mistakes and evolve. On the flip side, Madison Avenue will still stubbornly cling to outdated tactics and losing ideas.

Oh, and the Dallas Mavericks won with diversity, featuring players from a variety of countries, cultures, ages, religions and more.

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