Making the “Agency of the Future”

If it sounds cliche, it probably is.  Ironically it is also exactly what our clients are asking for and even using it as the name of the initiative as they look for new approaches to marketing.

At Mirum we’ve been working on stepping back from the talk and doing the hard work around the systems and tools that can really allow people to work differently and deliver a better product.

At Dreamforce, SF Society Magazine posted some of my thoughts on how Salesforce can support agencies.

The challenge every company faces is how to be different, and how to be better.

For marketing agencies, this is doubly difficult. Our biggest asset is our people, and while we invest heavily in culture, people routinely move between agencies. They move because they can be productive quickly, and they can be productive because, despite all of the branding we put on our methodologies, what we do and how we do it is pretty commoditized.

And no one wants to be competing as a commodity.

We also have the challenge of client expectations. Moore’s Law has set the bar high.  Every business is under pressure to make its product twice as good every 18 months, and to sell it at the same price.

Can we really expect our creative director to be twice as creative every 18 months?

Read more: 

The Salesforce marketing team also created this video:

Horizontality Extends to Practices – WPP Adobe Alliance

Gears working togetherInteresting to see a new corollary to the client Team approach, it is WPP product Alliance.  Supply-side meets Demand-side.  Since we truly can create teams across agencies when clients need them, so why not package them up that way?


WPP, the world’s largest communications services group, today announced the expansion of its strategic partnership with Adobe, the global leader in digital marketing software, to provide marketing solutions to clients through a coalition of specialist WPP agencies called the WPP-Adobe Alliance.

The WPP-Adobe Alliance brings together and makes available to clients Adobe Marketing Cloud capabilities across six WPP agencies and more than 1,000 experts in over 20 locations.

Combining the breadth of WPP’s digital agency network with the depth of its individual companies’ expertise, it also leverages the Group’s access (unique amongst its competitor set) to proprietary data through its data investment management business.

The launching members of the WPP-Adobe Alliance include Acceleration, Cognifide, KBM Group, Mirum, VML and Wunderman. Among these agencies are some of Adobe’s earliest partners, and all have extensive experience of successful Adobe Marketing Cloud implementations for WPP’s top global clients.

As an Adobe Premier Partner, WPP has committed to developing the skills required to design, develop, sell, deploy and operate solutions at a high level of expertise using Adobe technology throughout its network of companies.

WPP agencies hold certifications across the Adobe product portfolio. Wunderman, for example, was the first global Adobe partner to become a Specialized Partner for Adobe Campaign in both North America and EMEA. Cognifide has delivered expertise in Adobe Experience Manager for more than 10 years. Mirum Asia was named Adobe’s Digital Marketing Partner of the Year for three years in a row.

The WPP-Adobe Alliance is headed by Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Kelly Ann Bauer. It is part of WPP’s Technology Partnership Program, an initiative led by Chief Digital Officer Scott Spirit to coordinate and promote the Group’s relationships with key providers of marketing technology services.

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, said: “The joint Adobe-WPP proposition is a very powerful one: Adobe’s leading marketing technology solutions alongside WPP’s unique ability to leverage the collective capabilities of our agencies, and our proprietary data, for the benefit of our global client base.

“The WPP-Adobe Alliance extends our combined offering beyond the footprint of a single WPP company through the creation of bespoke teams, enabling clients to respond more strategically and more efficiently to their biggest marketing challenges.”

“Through the WPP-Adobe Alliance, WPP clients can now yield the greatest return from their Adobe Marketing Cloud investments,” said Shantanu Narayen, president and CEO of Adobe. “We are excited about taking our successful digital marketing partnership with WPP to another level.”

Further information
Kelly Ann Bauer, WPP: ; +1 646 339 1056

About Adobe Marketing Cloud
Adobe Marketing Cloud empowers companies to use big data to effectively reach and engage customers and prospects with highly personalized marketing content across devices and digital touch points. Eight tightly integrated Solutions offer marketers a complete set of marketing technologies that focus on analytics, web and app experience management, testing and targeting, advertising, video, audience management, social engagement and campaign orchestration. The tie-in with Adobe Creative Cloud makes it easy to quickly activate creative assets across all marketing channels. Thousands of brands worldwide including two thirds of Fortune 50 companies rely on Adobe Marketing Cloud.

About WPP
WPP is the world’s largest communications services group, with billings of nearly US$76 billion and revenues of nearly US$19 billion. Through its operating companies, the Group provides a comprehensive range of advertising and marketing services including advertising & media investment management; data investment management; public relations & public affairs; branding & identity; healthcare communications; direct, digital, promotion & relationship marketing; and specialist communications. The company employs over 188,000 people (including associates and investments) in more than 3,000 offices across 112 countries.

WPP was named Holding Company of the Year at the 2015 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the fifth year running. WPP was also named, for the fourth consecutive year, the World’s Most Effective Holding Company in the 2015 Effies, which recognise the effectiveness of marketing communications.

Adrants: Coleen’s New Start-up Redefines Advertising

I love our industry.  The trends, the repeating nature of the trends, and the constant repeating nature of how agencies react to the repeated trends.
To see Havas embrace social media and technology by hiring Coleen DeCourcy is great.  Every large agency should embrace social media and technology.
My question is the hyperbole of the quotes and the commentary.  Maybe I just need to stop reading ad rants!

Of their decision to acquire Socialistic, Havas Worldwide CEO David Jones said, “Our industry used to be just about having the best talent. It’s now about talent and technology. Socialistic combines one of the most brilliant digital talents in the world – Colleen DeCourcy – with cutting edge technology. I’m really looking forward to what this start-up will be able to deliver for our clients to keep them ahead of their competitors,”

And there you have it. The advertising industry will no longer worship the creative superstars who developed The Big Idea. No. The future stars of advertising will be the geeks. The technologists. The IT guy in the back room of the agency who used to watch porn all day long. Yes. The people we called when we had a virus on our computer or couldn’t get our laptop to connect to the agency’s WiFi will now be called upon to develop branded applications, iPhone apps, custom APIs.

It’s not Don Draper’s world anymore, people.

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Marketing Code: Why Agencies Need to Learn Software Development

Marketing Code: Why Agencies Need to Learn Software Development

The world’s fixation with technology isn’t new.

CES is has grown so big people need Segways to get to their keynotes, Intel has posted the highest revenue in it’s 42 year history and according to Gartner worldwide IT spending will be $2.5 trillion in 2011.  This is a number which is more than 3 times worldwide advertising spending.

What is new is that after years of curiously watching their IT colleagues wrestle with ERP supply chain systems, marketers are being dragged in.

Amends on a set of rich media ads aren’t covered in e-mail, they are managed through an extranet bug tracker.  The campaign planning to redesign a brand site starts with a workshop to agree use cases.  Under half way into a six-month project to launch a set of in-store displays we learn a three day delay on approving the concept will shift the launch date three days.

This is the world of systems integration and you only need to consider a few of the activities that make up marketing today to see why we marketers really need to learn software development.

Online Advertising

We know online spend has increased past 10% of worldwide media spend.  For some of our clients it is 80%.  We also know churning out thousands of basic animated gif banners doesn’t have the impact we need so we start looking to increase relevance by using dynamic banners.

Computers can manage thousands of message combinations and present them based on all kinds of attributes -– if you program them.  When you decide it would be useful to target them based on the recent purchase data in your transaction system?  You have a software project.

As Eric Wheeler, former head of OgilvyInteractive in North America and current CEO of 33 Across says, “Agencies need teams that are rooted in technology, data and have a ruthless commitment to increasing return for their clients.  This requires great campaigns and custom tools to manage them.”

Brand Sites

We all know that when our customers have a question they go online.   Apple has taught us that design and functionality are crucial to building market share and advocacy.   The basic brochureware sites originally launched ten years ago didn’t require much application development, but they also didn’t really engage people.

A product selector like Ford’s car configurator can allow customers to spend more then 20 minutes studying your product, and quickly becomes the most important touchpoint in the purchase process.

At times brands let sales teams create their brochures — and it shows.  Would you let your network support engineer have a try?

If we want to manage these projects, we need to bring technologists into our teams.  We need to understand how great applications are built, how to manage development pipelines based on analytics and perhaps most importantly how systems integrators avoid the software runaways that can cripple a business.

Downloadable Apps

There have been 10 billion applications downloaded from the Apple App Store.  Among them are over 6 million downloads of the Zippo Lighter simulator, 4 million of Kraft iFood and 3 million of the Audi A4 Drivers Challenge.  All of these applications are driven by marketing objectives.

While the App Store has been a clear success, it is limited to Apple iOS platform.   The marketers behind them now need to decide if their apps are going to be ported to Android, Blackberry, Symbian and Palm, while considering what their next release is and how to manage branching their code base.

Given the popularity downloadable apps, it isn’t surprising the business model has been replicated.  At the end of 2010 Samsung reported it’s TV App Store has had over 2 million apps downloaded to its smart TVs.  The Verizon Fios Widget Bazaar launched in July 2009 and Sony has Bravia applications for both its TVs and Blu-ray players.

And if you believe our TVs will become “smart tv” by taking a browser-centric model?  Firefox’s Add-Ons library has over 2 billion downloads and Google has launched the Chrome Web Store.

Product Differentiation

With so many people using laptops, smartphones, tablets and interactive kiosks daily, it isn’t a surprise product teams are looking to use technology for product differentiation.

Nike ID was a product configurator that added fulfillment more then ten years ago.  The Domino’s Pizza Tracker is a customer service tool that drove a brand campaign.

As marketers we can cede this software development to the technical teams and sit back until called in to communicate the product launch, but that is also ceding our control of the brand.

Companies like Hewlett-Packard have a reputation for being driven by their engineering teams, but today more and more companies are being defined by their software over all else.  As Stefan Pepe, General Manager at Gilt Group and former Director at Amazon said, “the retail part of my job is a far second to getting functionality that really works for our customers live on our websites.”

The reality is this is only a short list of how technology and software development are encroaching on the traditional marketing function.   We all need to understand our computers as well as we understand our customers because to put it most simply, they aren’t putting microchips in less places and microchips run on code.

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Will Agencies Be Automated?

This is a great piece from MediaPost about the future of agencies, automation of services and what happens when all media is served.   I’ve written about this before when I was thinking What If All Media Is Served and in general how all agencies — creative and media — need to get comfortable with technology. 
But all that said, nothing changes as quickly as writers think it will and there will be roles for people in the process.

The Future Is Automation For All Agency Services
by Cory Treffiletti

Do you want to know what the agency of the future really is?  It’s all automated.

I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that the agency business is almost 100% commoditized as a result of its own ineffectiveness and unwillingness to adapt.  The agency of the future will be 90% automated, with only minimal human curation of the data and the systems that are put in place, and a modicum of strategy applied as well.  The human component will exist for top-level strategic thinking, and to develop research and POVs on data opportunities and evaluate new platforms — all of which serve to further automate the media planning, buying and execution process.  Oh, and let’s not forget humans will be there to provide IT assistance for when the systems inevitably have hiccups.

The digital side of the business is headed to this realm of automation and there’s not too much anyone can do about it. The simple fact is, there’s too much confusion, too much clutter, too few trained professionals, and too many fly-by-night solutions that profess to be expert but actually serve to bring down the average performance of the category.

 Agency/client relationships last an average of four years in the digital world, and slightly longer in the offline world. The debate between content buying and audience buying in online won’t even be relevant in five years; the “content” buying component of digital media is being automated, for better or worse, and the “audience” buying model is proving to be effective.  The results are clear.  Using data to drive targeting works  — and this can all be mechanized.

The offline world won’t be far behind, once [more]

Meet the agency of the Future

It is amazing how the “agency of the future” articles continue to appear.  Mainstream ad agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi are doing spoofs of the last agency on earth, editorials appear in Campaign and Ad Age, and Forrester talks of the Great Race to the middle or connected agency.

What can we say for sure?

  • Even in defined industries like DM agencies, agencies have never been the same.  The use of data, reliance on creative intuition, ability to really test & learn were all done to differing degrees.  The new integrated agencies and the new digital agencies need to recognize the variations and sell on them.
  • Agency technology will be more and more important.  How long can clients be expected to receive creative via e-mail just before a review (“sorry it is a 5 meg file, might take a minute”)?  How much more media fragmentation before it can’t be planned by a human?  How long before everyone expects their agency to have results the next day, any time of day and in real time?
  • Making great campaigns will continue to get harder. The idea that a planner can write a brief and a couple creatives can go off and come back with a big idea is rapidly appearing incredibly naive.  Where’s the technologist?  Where is the strategist with social insights from that afternoons search volumes and forum comments?  Where is the account guy who acts more like an industry consultant than a relationship manager? A media person that knows market prices and volumes to get the message out?

Will clients need agencies?  Yes.  But not for the old reason that they can’t hire and manage creative people but for the new reason that they can’t hire and co-ordinate creatives, technologists and strategists.  Much less build and maintain the tools they need to do their job correctly.

Meet the agency of the future

March 04, 2010

Article Highlights:

  • The current agency structure hasn’t evolved at pace with media
  • The interactive agency model disincentivizes greatness and
    fails to penalize mediocrity
  • Think about how your property can serve as a conduit for deeper
    interactions between brands and consumers
  • If marketers want to radically impact change in the marketing
    ecosystem, it starts with how you allocate dollars

Sure, agencies can look at all the
technology changes, media shifts, industry turmoil, and business
challenges they are up against and feel nothing but stress and pressure
to meet the needs of the dynamic audience. But that’s not how Bryan
Weiner, CEO of 360i, chooses to view the opportunities presented to
agencies during what he refers to as the golden age of the agency.

“It’s time to leave the pessimism behind. This represents an
unprecedented opportunity for agencies to become indispensable marketing
partners,” said Weiner in his Agency of the Future address at last
week’s IAB Ecosystem conference in Carlsbad, Calif.

Full Article

The debate continues — digital versus traditional agencies

It has been a while since I've updated my "who's winning" table on agency performance, but I think the real prediction is to say before we know the winner, it won't matter.  Everyone is running to the middle and soon enough all of the big agencies will quickly resemble one another in an integrated heaven!
That said competition runs deep in humans and there will be plenty more news bulletins of battles won and lost, and strategic analysis of how the war is progressing.
This opinion piece from Ad Age by Barry Wacksman, Chief Growth Officer from R/GA (of course), is a really well written argument.  No question the best way to win a war is to have the best army. 
If we can get our teams focusing on being a strategic advisor to clients with a big dose of innovation, solid delivery and passion for analytics on peformance we'll get out of being commoditized creative brokers and back into being non-procurable consultants and all win.  Bring on the new age of the strategic agency partner.

Forget Being a 'Lead' Agency; Strive to Be a Dream Agency
And It All Starts With Innovation

by Barry Wacksman
Published: January 11, 2010

Three recent articles in Ad Age have spurred a furious online debate about whether digital agencies are ready to "lead" and whether the industry even needs big digital agencies anymore. All three suffer from multiple misconceptions about the agency business, so it's time to offer another point of view.

The very idea of a lead agency as the center of command-and-control for other agencies has outlived its usefulness. The model was appropriate for the mass-media age, when the most important thing a brand could do was tell its story through paid media. Long ago, clients separated agencies from the "lead" and formed direct relationships with a mix of different firms. They may have spent more time (and money) with their traditional ad agency, but even this has changed. In some cases, so-called digital agencies have larger budgets and better access to senior client decision-makers, and this trend is growing.

We should worry less about being a "lead" agency and more about being a "dream" agency. We should ask: What do clients need today, and who is best equipped to deliver? This is what all agencies must consider as they create new business models appropriate for the digital age. So, if a client could build the dream agency today, what would it look like?

It would have a thorough understanding of how consumers think and feel, but also how they seek and make and share and transact. It would recognize that the lives of consumers have dramatically transformed in the past 10 years. In an era where Facebook has 350 million members and Google is the world's most valuable media company, the idea that consumers lead increasingly digital lives isn't debatable.

It wouldn't be wedded to a specific craft such as TV or print. Nor would it only think about designing a website. It would do all of those things without bias toward any strategic or tactical solution.

This agency would have innovation at its core and the ability to craft campaigns to promote these innovations. But it would start with the innovation — not the other way around, as most traditional agencies reflexively deliver campaign ideas as the first step.

Data would be its guiding light. It would have the right people to mine the data, interpret it and, based on the results, provide direction on whether and how to proceed to achieve the best ROI.

It would produce things with efficiency and fidelity, recognizing that brilliant ideas can fall apart with poor execution (a bad user interface, for example). It would understand that clients have an unprecedented opportunity to deliver massive amounts of content via free media channels such as YouTube and Facebook, as well as owned media channels, such as their own websites, mobile apps and Twitter feeds.

Whichever agency gets to this state of Nirvana first is likely to be the most important strategic and creative partner for clients — even if it's no longer called a "lead" agency. So, who will get there first?

I'd bet on the current crop of large, independent digital-age agencies. The most evolved have the skills to formulate and execute ideas that are digital but extend far beyond it. These agencies have had the advantage of evolving alongside the biggest consumer trend of the 21st century, the digital revolution, just as their predecessors had evolved alongside the biggest consumer trend of the 20th century, the mass adoption of TV.

The question — "Are these agencies ready to lead?" — has already been answered by the many clients who have appointed them as their primary strategic agency partners.

Barry Wacksman is exec VP-chief growth officer, R/GA.

1 Comment
Subscribe to comments on: Forget Being a 'Lead' Agency; Strive to Be a Dream Agency
  By JMorganBaker | London January 11, 2010 06:42:35 am:
This is a really well written piece and having been in digital market for 10 years now, it isn't a surprise that I agree completely. One thing to remember though — "execution" which you use as an example poor user interface, is also client management. Traditional agencies have real skills in gaining consensus around creative ideas that digital agencies–because we work with such complexity–often miss. Also if you replace "innovation" with "creativity," you have the argument all of the integrated agencies are making in the market today. It really is a rush to the center — is it easier to teach print to digital creative than vice-versa? Probably. Will digital agencies continue to see big growth, definitely. But the scale difference between big traditional agencies and big digital agencies means the big agencies will have time to learn how to be consultative, integrated and innovative.


Current New Agency Thinking in Advertising

It is funny how you consume media in the internet age. 

Some of us call it “information snacking,”  some call it “managing feeds.”  What is amazing is how we do still end up reading what we want to read and are able to keep up with significant stories or trends — even if they aren’t defined in a few media players editorial calendar as they were before.

I believe this is because the ease of publishing means strong ideas get enough coverage to still have a significant share of voice, regardless of the media fragmentation.

It is also because as humans we tend to build off of each other’s ideas.  A more cynical view would be to say we herd around themes. 

This WARC article does a great summary of the key themes I see frequently.

The changing art of persuasion in a downturn

There were a number of recurring themes throughout the day, but three were most prominent. First, the traditional “persuasion” model of advertising is broken. Second, the industry is becoming data rich but insight poor. Third, the structure and process of creating advertising has changed little since the days of Mad Men (while the customer, in the real world, has moved on dramatically).

Ogilvy NA Appoints Discipline Specific MDs

Interesting note in the press from the US about Ogilvy North America. 

A lot of bigger agencies have been experimenting with mixing up teams, de-accentuating or eliminating P&Ls, and cross-training up people so they can deliver integrated solutions.

The question is does it work?  At Ogilvy in NY the decision has been made to have separate MDs running DM and Advertising — which means perhaps not.

“We were trying to get people not to worry about a P&L and to think in a more holistic way about [client] solutions,” said John Seifert, North American chairman of The Ogilvy Group. “The effect that it had — which we discovered pretty quickly — is that it started to create a kind of grayness to what each discipline stood for.”

And, it must be assumed, that must have impacted on how the teams reacted to client requests and the quality of the work.  Otherwise the agency — which is one of the most mature and best run of the big established agencies — wouldn’t change course.

They’ll run their divisions, but then they’ll have an accountability on her [Carla Hendra’s] leadership team to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.”

“There should be a common culture and philosophy of our promise to clients,” said Seifert. “But … we don’t want that to be lost in a mushed-up ‘we’re all one’ kind of model.”

Interesting to see — and equally interesting that DM and Advertising are seen as requiring separate management, but Digital is not.  Like a lot of established agencies, the management of DM, Advertising, Media, Heathcare Marketing, and PR have proven their case that their disciplines have a complexity and special skills that require nurturing and dedicated management. 

But poor OgilvyInteractive – despite being the oldest interactive agency brands and having a good case to celebrate turning 25 this year — languishes in integration without dedicated management. 

Be interesting to see how that works out as the year progresses.


Ogilvy Team: Separate but Equal

A restructuring in New York results in two new managing directors

March 8, 2009

-By Andrew McMains

NEW YORK When Ogilvy & Mather named separate managing directors for advertising and direct marketing at its New York headquarters last week, it was a tacit acknowledgment that having co-leaders across all disciplines bred confusion among staffers and a lack of accountability among bosses.

“We were trying to get people not to worry about a P&L and to think in a more holistic way about [client] solutions,” said John Seifert, North American chairman of The Ogilvy Group. “The effect that it had — which we discovered pretty quickly — is that it started to create a kind of grayness to what each discipline stood for.”


Proximity Gets a US Office – and it's digital

After all of these years the “worldwide network” of Proximity will have a US office.  It will also give Proximity’s digital team a major boast which I’m sure the teams in London and elsewhere will look forward to as they try to develop more digital work in the DM-centric offices.

So two questions to watch —

1) will Atmosphere add DM skills to become more like the original Digitas (Simon Hall’s original vision)?

2) will Proximity follow Atmosphere’s approach of building digital around display advertising not websites and applications?

Being focused on display advertising as Atmosphere is makes it a lot easier to integrate with BBDO’s traditional approach and creative structure, but makes it harder to be do advanced digital marketing — the transformational kind that requires good consulting, technical and deep creative skills.

Then again this may be smart — just as the management consultancies have said ad agencies shouldn’t bother to try to get a seat next to the CEO, perhaps they shouldn’t try to do complex digital work like R/GA either. 

There is plenty of work out there doing advertising and campaigns.

Thursday, Feb 19

Breaking: Atmosphere BBDO To Be Absorbed by Proximity Worldwide

AgencySpy has learned that Atmosphere BBDO will be absorbed by Proximity Worldwide. Roy Elvove, EVP director of corporate communications confirmed the news moments ago.