Marc Pritchard recently announced some interesting changes over at P&G. Moving marketers from “project” managers to “brand” managers, cutting the number of agencies the company works with, doing more deals in-house. Quite a number of changes, each of them different, but they all come down to needing to improve P&G’s agility.
On the agency side, WPP’s recent woes have called into question agency structures and the impact of holding companies constantly under-cutting each other.
Clearly, the standard agency model has grown too complex for the modern advertising landscape and increasingly Pritchard and others like him are taking steps to address this. When he called for an end to the “archaic Mad Men model” recently, I couldn’t have agreed more. It’s no longer fit for purpose, because the world isn’t like that anymore.
Big agency or small agency? They each bring different benefits to the table. But what really matters now is the need for agility, which is where some agencies are really coming into their own. These days, problems need to be solved quicker, content needs to be delivered faster, and smaller doesn’t always mean more agile. Having the flexibility required by clients is more about fluid working methods rather than the structure of an organisation, or its size.
Obviously, much of this comes down to digital. We can now turn around the “of the moment” execution quickly. Strategies are still important, but in order to be relevant they can’t exist in a vacuum. Success now is even more about insightful strategies and keeping your client’s business problems and challenges front and centre at all times.
Good work does still take a certain amount of time. I’m not saying we shouldn’t still be doing research, exploring different angles, looking at the long term. But once the ground work is in place quick reactions are important, and putting teams together in a way that enables that is crucial. The phrase “think slow, act fast” is even more important here. Clients are still looking for great thinking, but they need quicker creativity too. We’ve all (understandably) become preoccupied with capabilities, but rigid systems can also hold us back.
Firstly, we need to change how we think about the “creative solution” itself. Maybe the best way to solve a particular client challenge is for them to reconfigure their business, or processes, for example. Shock horror, maybe they need a great creative strategy with no comms execution. Being agile should apply to our thought processes as much as our ability to move quickly. We’re increasingly seeing a desire for insightful creative solutions that don’t necessarily involve a media execution.
Secondly, being agile requires effort on both the client and agency sides, meaning it’s important we all work together in the right way. Lead agencies still have a role to play in all of this, but what matters is getting the mindset and combination of people right. Once that’s in place you can create content at a moment’s notice, in any format, for any medium. There can’t be any baton passing, and there is no longer time for the type of inter-agency or department squabbles seen in the past. Lead agency or not, everyone needs to be willing to collaborate as required, and to bring in partners as you need them.
Business is faster and more complicated than ever before. Therefore, client problems need to be simplified and solved by creative, insightful solutions that respond to changes in the marketplace. That’s why newer types of mergers, like Accenture’s purchase of Karmarama, are taking place. And it’s also one of the reasons more nimble agencies are finding themselves in a stronger position in this shifting landscape.
Agility must be grounded in an integrated offering, and that’s where the future lies. Not just for us, but for business overall.
Cordell Burke is creative managing partner at Big Dog
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