The most recent iMedia Agency Summit focused on the agency model of the future. This tends to be an ever evolving debate in an ever changing marketing universe. Do you specialize in one area? Be all things to all people? Partner with other shops or go it alone? With the rise of procurement departments at the same time as programmatic solutions that promise efficiencies, there seems no better time to have this conversation.
AGENCY ONLY DAY
This conference always kicks off with a special day dedicated solely to agency folks. Most everybody in the room is a Director or higher, from agency’s owned by holding companies down to 10 person independents. The basis of the day is to have an open and honest conversation about this great industry in regards to the conference topic.
Once again this day did not disappoint, you could feel the passion among these agency leaders which lead to some spirited conversations and great learning. One area of concern in the ad community continues to be training for staff and finding the right talent. While a number of folks resorted to the usual comments such as, “we don’t have time” and “we run so thin, it’s sink or swim”, a handful of people had some great solutions. One that stood out was an agency’s no interview rule. They simply have a handful of people come in with each getting pared up with a mentor and begin working. Every 4 hours the mentor checks in with the department head and makes the decision to keep going or cut bait, eventually landing on one candidate. They are in a sense looking at two things, how does this person fit within our culture and what is their work product like?
Next up was a great conversation with Jon Raj from Cello Partners, discussing the agency search process and what brands are looking for and saying. Turns out it’s a little of everything. You have Best Buy and other brands moving away from the standard AOR model and going towards project work. You have more and more brands embracing independent agencies that display great thinking, along with a certain level of trustworthiness. Two things that can get lost at times. The bottom line: build trust, be transparent and collaborate internally to bring great ideas forward.
EVOLVE OR DIE
The theme over the next two days focused mainly on evolving the agency model and the ways in which we target consumers. Lots of insight from the clients in attendance continued to focus on building trust, bringing good ideas forward and providing real insights, not just data. One quote in particular stood out, “the difference between agencies is declining, so it’s not what I require but more about how you can solve my business needs”.
In terms of building out your agency team with focus on specialty areas, some agency leaders found it hard to grow the knowledge while maintaining the current level of work. The solution in these cases centered on finding a niche agency, buying them and folding it into the current shop. The main concern in these cases was clashing cultures and how to mold together. The consensus was to include more people in the process and get them working together early, before a deal is even done to ensure a cohesive environment.
The other big discussion revolved around Millennials and Gen Z and how they will not only impact the marketing business but also from a consumer standpoint. Ann Mack, the Director of Global Content and Consumer Insights for Facebook was on hand to present a recent study on these two groups. The results were very telling of how the industry is, but still needs to shift in terms of thinking and engagement. The top three areas of focus for these two groups were Family, Friends and Music. It was also noted that online has surpassed the mall for places teens hangout. FOBO (Fear of Being Offline) is the new FOMO, and it’s a real thing that’s not going away, especially with the digital first world we now live in.
We as marketers need to evolve the way in which we operate our businesses and think more from a digital first mindset. We can’t simply apply old techniques to new technology. You must embrace digital, stop supporting silos and invest in vision. Those who do will continue to build trust and thrive.