Agencies need to layer creativity with new-age learnings through deep data analysis, market understanding and collaborate where necessary
By Ameer Ismail
We live in a world where data powers everything. This has had far-reaching impact on how agencies and holding companies operate and conduct business. Take the case of Big Technology – while the top 7 brands added $3.4 trillion in value, during the same period our industry has been battling diminishing budgets, holding on to margins and trying to navigate a scenario where many brands were cutting back on communications spends.
The earlier philosophy of holding companies having an ecosystem of multiple brands in a single market earning a higher share of client budgets has come under review due to local disruption – changing consumer preferences and emergence of smaller, independent creative agencies. All these have put huge competitive pressure on agency brands.
Another game changer has been the rapid move towards digital. While most holding companies were rushing to add digital capabilities, it could hardly compare with the tremendous advantages possessed by the tech and large consulting firms, especially when it comes to deep data prowess. Big five consulting firms like Accenture, PWC, Deloitte, and others already have, and continue to, invest heavily in developing their digital and marketing capabilities and some have also entered the content creation space. Take the example of Accenture Interactive, which was named the world’s largest digital agency network. It recently declared revenues of $10.6 billion, fueled by its acquisition of digital marketing agencies – Creative Drive and Yesler, both with proven strength in content development. Legacy companies who have taken decades to build and grow are now forced to introspect and rightfully feel concerned.
The reason this is giving legacy holding companies’ sleepless nights is the speed with which these changes are happening. Even as they were grappling with the increasing margin pressures and earnings calls, acquisition budgets were shrinking or had even disappeared completely. At the same time, the big tech firms were raking in huge revenues and stealing a march on everyone, even during the pandemic! The combined revenue of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft jumped 41% in Q3’21 to $322 billion.
So, what does the future look like for our industry? Are these forces of change and disruption going to completely kill the agency model? I would like to think not. Everyone who has spent some time in the industry has seen the impact of these changes, however, there are so many of us who are passionate about the world of brands and have an unshakable belief in our relevance and value. It is true that there needs to be a complete reimagining of agency models of the future and an acceptance that these disruptions are going to continue, not abate. Let’s not forget that our talent has been feeding so many industries, including big tech. We need to confidently stake our claim and stand firm in the belief that creativity and brand building requires confluence of many elements including data and insights. Creativity has been the cornerstone of all great communications and this is something that will never become obsolete. What agencies need to do is to layer this with new-age learnings through deep data analysis, market understanding and collaborate where necessary to acquire these capabilities.
Speaking of creativity, there are a few things I feel agency brands must do and then some agendas the industry must push collectively. Firstly, we need to use our creative capabilities to have bigger ideas that can impact society, country, and the world. While we do outstanding brand and purpose work, I feel our canvas needs to be far larger. We need to do work that impacts real change not just by delivering a smart tagline or a great brand campaign but we need to harness our inherent strength by coming up with larger concepts and ideas. We need to create a mindset where the most important yardstick for measurement are tangible changes in society and not just views, likes or comments. One example is our campaign #MainBhiIndiaPolice which encouraged people to behave responsibly during lockdown and managed to get an important message to millions and trigger behavior change. Another is the “Uncensored Playlist” and “Uncensored Library” for Reporters Without Borders – brilliant examples of campaigns that had tangible impact.
These are just some examples of the tremendous capability that rests within this industry – this is such a great competitive advantage, but we need to do much more! The only thing needed to thrive in this world is think bigger, embrace change, understand data and reorganize our models.
The author is president, Lintas Live, MullenLowe Lintas Group. Views expressed are personal.