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The metamorphosis of the ad agency

The proliferation of technology has permeated the masses and shows only signs of acceleration. Agencies try to compete with their algorithms and math men. But are they enough?

During an insight presentation at the iMedia Agency Summit in Rancho Palos Verdes, Kevin Hung, SVP and digital innovations director at Havas Media, argued that they're not. In fact, he noted, most marketers' tactics haven't evolved much past classic ads dating back to the 1800s. Sure, they might show up on Instagram instead of in print media. But they're still the same models sipping the same beverages and competing for consumer attention (or, in the case of Instagram, consumer "likes").



"We're applying old techniques to a new world, and our consumers know this," Hung said. "We're not just antagonizing them with the things that we do. We're insulting them."

Some companies get it. These are the companies like Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox, Square, WhatsApp, and Nest -- the ones that put digital at the core of their businesses and leverage it as a springboard.

We've all seen the evolution as marketers, Hung said. Interruption has become invitation. One screen has become every screen. Reach and frequency have become moments. And prime time has become my time.

The keys to navigating the changing tides, Hung concluded, are as follows:

Seller relationships. Agencies don't need to cut off vendors. They need to integrate with them more deeply and incorporate them into their value propositions.

Stop supporting the silos. Everyone talks about it, but not many do anything about it. But agencies must at last abolish old-school structures that segregate buying teams from digital teams and others.

Find value in time-scaling. Understanding the micro-moments across the customer journey will be increasingly valuable. We can't just depend of programmatic to blast the same message across all channels.

Invest in vision. Agencies must invest in and hire specific talent -- the folks who are knowledgeable about technology and where things are going. Embed these people into your structure and infuse their insights into client feedback and products.

Lori Luechtefeld is principal of strategic content firm Wookit Media and an associate at WIT Strategy. In both roles, she works with a network of media and marketing professionals to devise and fulfill on content strategies that connect...

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