The article discusses how ad agencies have failed to evolve with the digital curve, failed to innovate and connect with the ‘next’ generation of consumers, how they over-complicate everything and have crushed morale, innovation and investments in the progress.
Over the past year, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with agencies all around the globe and of all shapes and sizes, understanding how they work and where their biggest strengths and weaknesses lie. Based on my individual experience, I disagree with several of the points that were made in the article.
On that note, I wanted to discuss how and why agencies SUCCEED at connecting, innovating, learning, simplifying and keeping moral high.
Agencies and Digital
The article made the so-called ‘argument’ that when agencies evolved into the digital space, they only integrated rather than innovated. Yes, there are some agencies out there that haven’t adapted quite so swiftly to the digital space, but, generally, they don’t claim that they are experts in that area. Let’s look at a few agencies who have clearly innovated in the digital space:
Agencies are collaborating not only internally, but externally to figure out how to integrate digital strategies into their campaigns and how those materials will work in support of their other initiatives. They aren’t just going to place a .PDF version online and call that their digital strategy. If they do, then yes, I agree that those people aren’t connecting the dots. But let’s be honest, there aren’t many of those left out there.
In terms of staying ahead of the digital curve and making sure that they’re utilizing technologies and platforms that will guide us into the future, agencies, on a consistent basis, continue researching. Agencies around the world are working on mobile tablet strategies because of 2016 projections. They are paying attention to the data and acting on it!
As these communication channels get more cluttered, new technologies and means of getting your message across are going to get more innovative and agencies are at the forefront of that bandwagon.
Agencies and Innovation
The author also asserted that agencies repurpose old materials because they don’t want to innovate. However, the author can’t give any examples - and I’d like to see them. In my professional experience, agencies want to know how to improve their processes, campaigns and strategies after they’ve launched. They want to make it better, figure out their weaknesses and improve upon them. Isn’t that seeking opportunity to innovate and move forward? The fact of the matter (and the one point in which I may agree with the author) is that if agencies don’t innovate, they’ll die in today’s market. But agencies aren’t extinct, are they?
Look at the new corporate-level jobs that larger agencies currently have in place, such as Chief Innovation Officer and Digital Innovation Strategist. Their sole job is innovation!
In general, agencies are consistently working to develop a culture and workspace to increase innovation and creative ideas, and test out ideas with usability research firms and pilot programs so that we can consistently enhance the customers experience. There are also multiple examples of great innovative, digital campaigns that agencies across the world have implemented, including:
Again, I could go on and on about how the ad agency industry is innovative, but I should probably stop there, I think you get my point.
The last major point by the author explains how agencies "fail to listen to the new generation of workers.” This made me laugh a little bit. Of course, the younger professionals are going to have to work harder when they enter the workforce, but as far as not valuing their opinions? The younger folks might not get paid as much as the higher ups, but everyone has to prove themselves. That’s how the corporate head honchos got into the position that they are in - they proved themselves. But on the other hand, in some agencies, you’ll see younger professionals taking leadership roles head on. There are a couple of Vice Presidents and CEO’s that I’m familiar with that aren’t even 30 yet. So come on— let’s be real. I’d like to know what agencies don’t value or even listen to the younger talent, because I’m not aware of any.
In regards to the folks in the big offices, yes, they might not be completing the day-to-day items, but they’re out there helping their agency build strategic partnerships, assisting in brainstorming meetings, securing client relationships, maintaining internal agency flow and suggesting strategies to help lead their agency into the future. Perhaps you’re thinking we’re still in the "Mad Men"era where all the higher ups sit in their offices and drink the day away - sorry that’s not a realistic view of what today’s corporate agency life is like. Although, it would be nice!
So here’s my advice to you, the people who work in an industry some guy thinks is dead:
Don’t use every new digital platform that is out there. Simplicity is key.
Always push yourself to think outside the box even further - no idea is silly.
Talk to people who are outside of your industry and who are completely removed from projects you might be working on - it’ll help you get a different perspective that you might have been missing.
Continue to learn and engage yourself with innovative ideas (i.e. TEDx).
Understand that this is a fast-paced world, so there are always new rules of engagement with consumers.
Don’t claim to be an expert when you’re not.
This is strictly an opinion piece. Feel free to share your thoughts on this article or the Business Insider article in the comments below!
Originally published Jun 9, 2012 5:30:12 AM, updated December 02 2014