A thought that keeps nagging me now and then serves as an inspiration for this think piece. So what has fundamentally changed in our industry since the times ofMad Men?
Nope, it is not the ‘advent of digitisation' or ‘Social Media' I'm referring to here. But something even more radical and concerning: advertising agencies have not been into the corporate boardrooms for a while now.
Whatever happened to the ‘trusted advisor'?
Once seen as a ‘confidant' on critical business decisions, the agencies seem to be slipping regularly on the business value chain. A recent global CMO survey on client-agency relationships echoes this sentiment where most senior marketers felt that today agencies lack ‘depth of knowledge on their business and category'.
However, they agree that the advertising industry has fast-forwarded their growth on the learning curve in terms of embracing science, technology and measurements in the business, but in process somehow have lost sight of the good old business acumen that once created legends like Ogilvy, Burnett & Bernbach.
Business beyond campaigns, awards and champagne
Failing economies, business lockouts, recurring apocalypses are truths of our times. And one more ‘Goodvertising' (feel good) campaign possibly cannot be our way of getting back into serious strategic business boardroom meetings.
Sooner than later, the agencies would need to get ‘real' beyond thinking campaigns, but confronting real business challenges hand in hand with clients. More and more clients have started showing their preferences for creative solutions that demonstrate effectiveness.
The value creation accent is on ‘Creative Solution' and not necessarily another integrated campaign. Sure, agencies have introduced technology based communication disciplines likes SEO/SEM, social marketing, apps development and data mining and marketing but we need to be mindful of the fact that nothing will possibly replace ‘demonstrated expertise on client's business and category'.
Building agency offering ‘beyond campaigns'
While there's been lot of fancy talk and titles floating around in various advertising corridors in the name of ‘innovation and integration', unfortunately there's been very little body of work available to substantiate the real intent behind the sentiment.
Strictly in my view, agencies should consider hiring tag teams of ‘creative strategists' and ‘strategic creative directors' who could infuse the culture of cross discipline innovation backed by sound business acumen.
The two shining examples currently in our creative business in practice would easily be:
- The revered R/GA: the agency for the digital age: the guys behind revolutionary Nike Plus & Fuel Band solutions, and
- The world acclaimed design outfit IDEO who collaborate with marketing giants like Samsung, Converse, Apple and Nokia to create next wave of innovation for our times.
In both cases the respective business knowledge is channelled through a creative process to create solutions in various forms, formats and formulations that have been impacting both balance sheets and boardroom discussions.
In my opinion this is not an uncharted territory for advertising agencies, since most of us have rolled-up our sleeves on the client shop floors in numerous brainstorming sessions called ‘the new product development'. Perhaps it is time to roll up those sleeves and get back to shop floor all over again.