Advertising is no longer about ads. So what does that mean for agencies?

Simone BartleyWith the media and advertising landscape fragmented Simone Bartley argues the traditional agency model is no longer fit for purpose.

CMO’s have never struggled more with bigger challenges than they are today. New technology and new audience behaviour is one thing; future business strategies and innovation to stay relevant are another.

Meanwhile in ad land there has been an array of new acquisitions and agency models but what has really changed? The majority of media and creative agencies still sell and generate space and ideas for ad formats; TV, print, digital or otherwise.

The fact is advertising is no longer about ads.

Advertising is now about content, participation, conversation, experiences and utility. Based on that agencies need to continue to evolve to deliver to this new definition.

Easier said than done, particularly for agencies that suffer issues of legacy systems and in fact any agency that does not have enough digital pacesetting clients in the mix.

So what should the modern agency look like?

The best place to start is by understanding the challenges of marketers today and into the future.

According to Philip Kotler at the recent World Marketing and Sales Forum in Melbourne, CMOs should be responsible for the following six tasks:

1. Represent the voice of the customer,

2. Monitor changes in the environment,

3. Act as a steward of the brand,

4. Oversee upgrades to technology,

5. Offer an insight into the portfolio, and

6. Measure and account for financial performance.

Kotler also thinks companies have two parts to their marketing departments: one “helping the salesmen sell” dealing with current business, and the other, separately working on strategy to build a future for the company.

That means agencies serious about creating deep partnership with marketer’s today need to rise above the world of communication tactics and think more about what brands and technology mean for business and marketing overall.

To do so requires a level of business and brand acumen as well as integrated teams with creative, media and technology skills working together.

One of the key issues for marketers is that agencies do not have a good history of collaboration or sharing ideas. Competing P&L’s only add to the issue.

The biggest step though may be the need to unlearn the labelling of the past; print, TV, digital and mobile.

These labels were originally created to help identify and understand the ‘new’ channels – Social, mobile etc. But as more channels open will this labelling help or hinder?

At the end of the day marketers need creative, media and technology teams to work together. Whether that is through one or more agencies.

So what are some of the key ingredients for the modern agency?

Everyone is strategic and creative.

Digital skills permeate the team.

The agency operates teams not departments.

The definition of the ‘creative team’ is challenged as teams are customised to the project.

Leadership and structure is allowed to happen more organically.

There is a culture where ideas can flourish.

An excellent example of this is Valve. Valve is a Gaming Company that has been voted one of the most desirable places to work.

Their Handbook cover reads: ‘A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when no one they’re telling you what to do.’ The hierarchy is referred to as Flatland.

For me the modern agency is smaller, with more generalists than specialists that don’t hide behind jargon. There is a bundled offer of creative, media and technology where media and technology people aspire to creative ideals and creative people care equally about the marketer’s business objectives.

Simone Bartley is CEO of agency TogetherCo

Bartley is speaking on a Q&A panel at tomorrow’s SAGE event in Sydney alongside Ikon Communications CEO James Greet, Ogilvy Australia Group CEO David Fox and Edelman CEO Tim Riches on the topic of what does a successful modern agency business look like?


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