Mike Teasdale offers up his Christmas wish list for the industry, which includes taking the management consultancy threat more seriously, using the blend of creative and data to generate transformative work, agency leaders doing more for diversity and advertising becoming an interrupter once again.
Dear Santa, You probably don't get many Christmas present wish lists from 50-year-old ad men. But as they say in my native Newcastle, 'shy bairns get nowt', so here is what I would like.
First, I would like the big creative agencies to take the challenge of acquiring management consultancy skills as seriously as the big management consultants are taking the challenge of acquiring creativity skills. Accenture Interactive has made 20 purchases since its launch in 2009 and is now a $6 billion revenue business. By comparison, there is no creative agency holding company doing anything remotely equivalent in the opposite direction.
To learn more about the battle between agencies and consultancies, read the CX battleground chapter of our 2018 Toolkit.
Publicis is the most developed of the agency holding companies in this respect, with Sapient now built in. But they still need to partner with an external IT consulting firm to deliver what their showcase consultancy client McDonald's wants. Other than R/GA and Huge, what presence has IPG got in the consultancy space? Omnicom has Precision Marketing Group, but beyond that I can't see much going on.
WPP is slowly evolving from a behind-the-scenes holding company into a company where the brand is WPP. That's a good thing, but they also need to evolve into a company offering a combination of creativity and consultancy. And I don't see much evidence of them acquiring consultancy skills. They've launched Wunderman Commerce, and they've developed consulting units at AKQA, VML and Ogilvy. But that's it as far as I can see.
Second, I would like ad agencies to get beyond figuring out how to blend data and creativity, and get on with using the blend to generate transformative pieces of work.
The thing that big clients most want is a consistently connected brand experience. Ad agencies are nowhere near being able to deliver that kind of transformative help.
They know they need to change how they are staffed and structured, but the speed of talent acquisition is a major hurdle. They can't easily and quickly sell off outdated business units to develop new ones. Their historic TV focus, combined with their personnel-heavy approach to client service, limits their ability to invest in the hiring of software engineers, designers, analysts and management consultants.
Sure, they are making changes, but their pace of change is slower than the pace of market evolution. That's why I fear the big management consultants because they are much closer than creative agencies to delivering the client dream of a fully connected brand experience. And much more committed to getting there.
Third, I would like ad agency leaders to do more than mouth platitudes about the need for greater diversity. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of how greater diversity fuels greater creativity, so it seems perverse for an industry that depends on creativity to be so sluggish in transforming itself.
There are even some leaders in the ad industry declaring themselves bored with the diversity issue, as if it's somehow getting in the way of talent. Obvious point alert: diversity is talent. And by diversity, I mean hiring talent from diverse cultures and backgrounds; I mean having women in charge; and I mean not firing people once they get over 40. Advertising is like Logan's Run, but with better clothes. We all know why ageism happens (money) but it's such a short-run mentality. It damages our ability to service clients' needs and makes us look like kids with felt tip pens rather than grown-ups with business transformation expertise.
Find out how Ford reengineered its multicultural advertising program in our report from the 2017 ANA Multicultural Diversity and Marketing Conference.
Fourth, I would like us to remember that our job is still to interrupt people. It's fashionable to believe that brands now need to engage with us in non-interruptive ways that make us like them. For example, directly funding the creation of entertainment, or improving physical infrastructure, or easing suffering through a social-purpose initiative.
Those attempts may work in subtle ways, but I think advertising still needs to poke us in the ribs and get our attention. We still need to interrupt people's lives and touch them emotionally. Advertising cannot just be an ambient presence in the background. It must jump out at you and enter your foreground temporarily if it is to do its job of communicating and persuading you to buy.
So, there you have it Santa, my Christmas wish list. I hope it's not too much to ask. I was going to get onto digital wishes (like supply chain transparency and brand safety and comparable metrics) but I think you've probably got your hands full with this lot. Besides, I am reliably informed that you've already got a project team of elves working night and day on unravelling the digital piece in time for Christmas 2025. Good luck with that one, big guy!