Where to next? Adland on the future of advertising

Are traditional agencies still match fit, when considering agency-client partnership models, ownership of strategy and consultancies? 

Ben Morgan, digital director, Accenture Interactive New Zealand

For the modern CMO, customer experience is at the core. Brands are seeking to connect the ‘big idea’ with the reality of experiences across digital and physical touchpoints. The result is less budget allocated to campaigns.

The changing needs of brands has demanded a new model that sees consultancy, creative and technology converging – bringing together brand strategy, design, communications, customer experience and product development at scale.

Accenture’s acquisition of creative agencies such as Karmarama and The Monkeys are driven by the need of this new, modern CMO, and it is proving a real differentiator.

The ability to forge customer experience end-to-end better reflects the modern adland, which the traditional agency cannot cater for. 

What do agencies need to stop doing in 2018?

Fleur Head, managing director, Y&R Wellington

I’d love to see agencies stop hitting the self-destruct button in 2018. We need to stop trying to undermine other agencies, bringing down the value of the entire industry. We should be proud of the business results agencies deliver in New Zealand. How our sometimes crazy, unorthodox environment can produce a creative way of solving a business problem that can’t be replicated in a more straight-laced culture.

It will require a bit of confidence (which despite outward appearances agencies don’t seem to have). Enough confidence to know that clients and other partners can contribute to an idea and make it better, and enough confidence to express an honest opinion if you disagree. 

What can agencies do to reduce staff churn? 

Paul Hamilton, client service director, Y&R Engage

While we concede the loss of good people to overseas travel is part of our industry we work hard at Y&R to keep our talent in-house. I would identify three key areas to our success;

Tailoring roles to fast track talent. Our industry evolves rapidly and our ability to create unique and flexible roles to reflect our teams’ strengths and our clients’ requirements is a win/win.

Promoting future stars from within the business is a clear indication that hard work and client success is rewarded. We celebrate these successes as an agency.

‘Don’t die wondering’ is our agency mantra and challenges everyone to push the boundaries on behalf of our clients. It’s important that the expectation to go the extra mile is balanced with rewards whether those be social occasions in our recently built bar, regular seasonal agency-wide celebrations and reduced office hours on Fridays during summer when workloads allow. 

Where is your main competition coming from? 

Justin Mowday, chief executive officer, DDB

Competition for agencies has proliferated over the last decade. There’s the usual agency vs. agency competition of course, but within that you have various agencies claiming specialisation, and ex-agency consultants too. Then you have media agencies trying to do creative for social media, and even the media themselves (e.g. TVNZ) producing cheap ads. Then there’s the new ‘frenemies’ like Facebook and Google, who on the one hand we collaborate with brilliantly, and on the other are talking direct to the client trying to cut agencies out. And, of course, there’s the business consultancies (Accenture and Deloitte etc) now seeing an opportunity to extend their thinking into the marketing/brand/comms arena, and even executing in the digital space.

Amidst all that industry tumult, the thing that continues to set agencies apart is the incredible creative firepower we can draw on. The ability to think about a brand from head-to-toe, to step back and appreciate how a brand grows a business. To define a brand from the core, then execute it consistently across every touchpoint, from tangible user experience through to comms and beyond. The best strategic and creative talent, with the ability to build the most powerful brands to deliver real business growth, still choose to work in an agency environment. Where creativity is valued, where there is a peer group that know that brands are one of the most powerful ways to gain an unfair advantage over the competition. 

How can we help promote diversity in the industry and help those less fortunate enter it?

Bridget Taylor, executive creative director, Contagion

There are three ways to help right now:

1. We need to let kids at school know about the broad range of jobs available and the skills needed to fill them. In both creative and media agencies, film companies, PR and client side.

2. Offer school holiday placements to lower socio schools, or even better, scholarships.

3. Let those less fortunate know that their point-of-view, their storytelling is just as relevant as any fancy private school kid. Probably more so because they are the public.

So what do we do at Contagion? I’ve always concentrated close to home. All of my nieces and nephews grew up in Rotorua and have all done work experience in Auckland. Even before we started the agency. The ones who’ve shown interest in the industry and studied here have worked at the agency during their studies. I’m proud to say my niece is now a digital producer. I also talk at schools and have mentored many school-aged girls.

And I actively put myself out in the media to show people that there are role models that look like them. I think it’s key that we see that ethnicity can mean you’re the boss not just the worker. As I say to everyone I hire, “take my job”. 

Is pitching broken?

Josh Moore, former CEO Y&R NZ and CCO Y&R Australia

Pitching is a funny thing, when you don’t win you often feel like the pitch was a stitch-up, when you do win you feel like the pitch was a brilliantly run fair and honest process with a thoroughly considered and appropriate appointment.

Y&R is on a winning streak of nine wins from nine pitches, so from my POV it’s hard to agree with the sentiment that pitching is broken. But here’s a few tips we apply before we agree to pitch.

Ask some sensible questions. Why have you put us on the pitch list? Why are you looking for a new agency? What is your favourite campaign our agency has created?

If a prospective client can’t answer these questions in a convincing manner we know we are just on the pitch list as filler, the third or fourth horse in the race and not a real contender. In this situation, the best decision is to decline politely and wait for a better opportunity. Pitches cost money, don’t throw that money after long shots. 

Do clients value creativity as much as they used to? 

Catherine Harris, managing director TBWA\New Zealand

In short, yes. In a fast-moving, noisy world creativity provides the cut through businesses and brands need to stand out.

Clients engage and respond to creative that has an impact on their brands, their customers and their business. Without creativity and a culturally disruptive idea, the greatest optimisation plan in the world will always be limited.

Clients do value creativity as much; however, they don’t value the traditional Agency process. Clients want creativity to present itself differently and be delivered through nimble ways of working, progressive cost structures and responsive models. Creative agencies today need to live two truths: creativity is now more important than ever, and agencies need to constantly disrupt how and what we create. 

What will you be doing for clients in two years that you aren’t doing now? 

Rory Gallery, head of strategy, Special Group

There’s loads of macro factors that are beyond the control of agencies that have led to a sharp rise in short-term tactical creative thinking across the board. CMOs have the shortest tenure in the C-Suite. Digital measures like views and impressions have become more important than actual business metrics. On the contrary, the hard evidence we now have about how communications work actually shows that long-term consistent brand ideas and campaigns are what drives business effectiveness. Going forward, we’re going to resist pressure for short-term solutions and ensure every brand in our building has a long-term brand strategy and idea. We only want to deliver work that works in the long-term. 

What will it take to fix the diversity issue in the industry? 

Megan Clark, managing director Copper Brand Experiences, chair of Comms Council Diversity and Inclusiveness Council

My belief is that there are so many places that we, and any industry, can look at implementing change. However, to be effective, we need to look for the areas that will give the best outcomes in the medium term, whilst still focusing on the longer game. The outcome we all are working towards is to be a more diverse and inclusive industry for better outcomes for our people (through policies and culture), our clients (through better work as an outcome of our diverse people) and for our audiences and society generally (again, through better work as an outcome of our diverse people).

The D&I Council, which I chair, believes that, based on our survey, although there is a lot of support many agencies don’t know where to start. So, we can start to effect change over the next 12 months and beyond, starting with the following goals, which help with awareness, and in providing tools for agencies:

1. Increase awareness of the benefits of Diversity & Inclusiveness in the communications industry workplace, through board engagement, DWNZ engagement, awareness of training options and a 12-month communications plan;

2. For every Comms Council member agency to have a D&I best practice policy in place by December 2018, through engagement with HR leaders and practical support through workshops;

3. Assist with the development of a more diverse talent pool through engagement at both high school and tertiary level

We are all on a journey with developing a more diverse industry. There is no quick fix but we are underway and will continue to look for more opportunities as we move ahead! 

How do you attract the best talent? 

Paul Wilson, managing director, Saatchi & Saatchi

Transparency, opportunity and support.

One of the keys to attracting and retaining talent at all levels is transparency.

Whilst it is tempting at the recruitment stage to only highlight what is great about a certain position or opportunity, I’ve found that being candid, discussing both the pros and cons helps build trust and people aren’t left feeling sold to.

It allows the candidate to get a more accurate understanding of the role and what’s to be expected.

Once they’re on board, we focus on creating an inclusive culture, opportunities for people to grow and the support to help them do so. 

What keeps you up at night? 

Wendy Thompson, CEO, Socialites

What honestly keeps me up is the excitement over all the ridiculously epic things my team and I are doing! Right now the marketing industry is in an inspiring time of huge change and transformation The velocity is crazzzzy and every day brings new opportunities to challenge the status quo and connect with people in interesting ways using new tech and new thinking. Our old marketing constructs of where, why, when and how have been smashed. The future belongs to the bold and the brave. 

  • This story was originally published in the 2018 Agency issue of NZ Marketing. To subscribe, click here.

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