Last year, NZ Marketing's Agency Issue looked at the rise of specialists, stating that the term ‘full-service’ was sounding increasingly anachronistic. While many agencies and marketers have continued their same model paths, a few stepped outside the square and made some different moves.
In March last year, Colenso BBDO announced a new agency model with a focus on “creative collaboration, clients’ customers and new ways of working”. Initiatives such as Colenso&Co, ColensoCX, Colenso Ventures and Colenso Studios were the result of changing client and customer needs.
Colenso BBDO managing director Scott Coldham said at the time, the challenges demanded it re-assess how the agency remained relevant, and pursue the things it believed would help ensure creativity continues to flourish.
Asking Coldham almost a year on how it’s going, he says he would be lying if he said it wasn’t without its challenges. But en masse it is helping Colenso change “the way it shows up, the way it thinks, the processes it uses and the way clients are seeing Colenso as a company”.
“It’s driving interesting new streams of work, it’s driving interesting new streams of revenue and we’ll keep trying stuff to make us better and more valuable,” Coldham says.
One of those new initiatives, Colenso&Co, involves Colenso calling on partners to have a physical and a virtual seat in the agency. The idea is to foster collaboration when client problems or opportunities arrive in the agency.
“Things like Colenso&Co, for example, was just a humble acknowledgement that we don’t have all the skill sets, nor do we care to invest in all of the skill sets that will make us relevant in every aspect of our clients business, otherwise we stand for nothing,” Coldham says.
“Wrapping a group of really good strategic, creative, technologically abled partners around us means we can bring the smartest people around the table to solve the clients problems and that’s the way forward – a collaborative mindset solving problems.”
Over at EightyOne, West says he suspects there isn’t a ‘best practise’ agency model anymore.
“It depends on the client, the agency, and the individuals. Some like a suite of specialists to call on. Others prefer a big brand shop with a few tagger on-ers. And everything in between.”
This is backed up by FCB’s Alexander, who says there isn’t a one- size-fits-all approach.
“It depends on the agencies capabilities because not all agencies offer full-services and that’s OK. I think where agencies can play the biggest role is to be the glue in the middle and bring those disjointed pieces together.
“Involving an agency to help in conversations with third parties and other suppliers is important from both a negotiation perspective and total context – how each piece of the comms ecosystem can work hard, together.”
L-R: Scott Coldham, Simon Hofmann and Blair Alexander.
Before an agency can put its skills and knowledge into practice they must first acquire clients.
Pitches and their processes can be a point of contention, celebration or commiseration and are something, unsurprisingly, people want changes and improvements to.
CCC’s Head says while he has seen improvement, he still has clients who go to market or go to a full creative pitch when they don’t need to.
“Perhaps the simple solution is some chemistry sessions and a credentials presentation instead of putting the agency through a full creative pitch for a piece of work that’s a test and never going to be bought,” Head says.
“The reality is that if you put a large agency through a reasonable size pitch the real cost could be half a million dollars. If four agencies pitch that’s a cost of $2 million to the industry for the sake of one winner ... the margins in the industry aren’t what they used to be, and agencies don’t have teams lying around waiting to pick up a pitch. It takes a lot of time and energy on both sides to do a pitch properly.”
This is backed up by Kiwibank head of brand and marketing communications Simon Hofmann who told NZ Marketing the whole approach to pitching needs to change.
In November, the bank announced a search for creative agencies, looking to appoint a panel of creative agencies across “strategy, brand communications, performance, campaign delivery and content with a strong understanding of the constantly evolving digital landscape”.
Kiwibank has been working with a suite of agencies after it took Assignment Group off retainer in August 2017. While it has worked with Assignment since, it has also worked on projects with a number of agencies including The Enthusiasts, EightyOne and Wrestler.
Hofmann says it has been talking to a lot of agencies through the process but is adamant it is not a pitch.
“We’ve really been trying to challenge the industry norm around how you find and select partners. Feedback has shown that it’s been really well received ... we’re trying to start from a really respectful, mutual ground, being transparent, sharing as much as we can and not just asking people to go away and do a whole lot of work. I’m not a believer in the long drawn out traditional pitch model.”
Hofmann says Kiwibank started with a mindset of a ‘panel’ and that was around its thinking of trying to find the “right people to do the right work and only asking people to do the work they’re really good at and passionate about”.
The bank doesn’t have a fixed mindset of what the model will look like.
“I believe if you start with a model in mind then you’ll only ever get that model. Being open to figuring out what works for you, meeting people along the way, building as we go – it’s sort of reverse engineering,” Hofmann says.
“I do think we’ll end up with some form of a mixed model, we may have a larger partner doing more work and some others doing some fit-for-purpose stuff or we may end up with a couple. Ensuring there are good synergies between us and all partners will be critical to where we land.”
L-R: Justin Mowday, Jen Rolfe and Paul Head.
While it’s head down all around as clients and agencies march on, it’s not all day- to-day thinking. Many have long term goals they’re working towards or things they would like to see from the industry.
For Rolfe, more women in the C-Suite and in positions of influence is something she’d love to see in 2019.
“I’ll do everything I can to help change it ... I wish I could say it was a trend, I would love to see more diversity. All the studies show that diversity brings greater benefit to companies, strategies and thinking – why wouldn’t we be embracing this and looking for ways to support it?”
This theme of diversity and inclusion is echoed by Mowday.
At DDB, there are specific mentoring programmes for women, unconscious bias training and the agency is increasingly looking at its cultural diversity.
“We’re about to launch a couple of programmes with selected high schools and tertiary institutions where we start to present marketing and advertising as a valid career option to demographics that aren’t naturally coming into this sector,” Mowday says.
“That will take some time to filter through but our view is that we have to start now. I think the statistic is by 2025 Auckland is set to be 40 percent non-European and one of our goals is that the agency reflects that by then.”
Mowday elaborates that diversity isn’t just about gender and culture – it’s about diversity of thought.
“If we want to be creative, show initiative and come up with fresh new things you need lots of interesting and new perspectives.”
Diversity of thought is something that Kevin Bowler, chief executive of My Food Bag, spoke about to StopPress after being inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame at the 2018 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards.
Admitting that when he started out, he hired people who looked like him without even thinking about it, Bowler said he now knows the value of having all sorts of people from different backgrounds in a team together – something he said generally leads to better decision-making.
For FCB’s Alexander, more “honest and frank discussions” with clients about their business issues is something he hopes to see.
“I think from a media perspective – don’t just give your media agency a media problem, give them a business problem. For one of our clients, we started off just doing their media planning and buying above the line and through acting like a business partner we’ve been able to grow the services that we offer them.
“From social to content creation, we also do business strategy such as advising them on NPD and new operating models. I think that’s where really getting to know a business and being more than just a media agency, can be of assistance to our clients, it’s about trusting us with the bigger picture.”
Over at Colenso, Coldham says he wants to see big works that “affect culture and have a positive impact on the clients’ business and the world around them”.
“I want to see the industry’s creative product get better, I think we do punch above our weight from this part of the world as a collective industry and long that may continue.”
PARTY LIKE IT’S 2019
As it’s already three months into 2019, the year is moving along quickly and regardless of challenges and trends, clients and agencies are revving up to produce more interesting, fun and emotive work.
Those talked to were optimistic and excited about the year ahead, with a little bit of anxiousness in light of jittery global markets.
All in all, there is a confidence in what agencies and clients are doing, with faces forward for growth and improvement in their own patches and the industry as a whole.
This article was originally published in the NZ Marketing Agency Issue 2019.