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Agencies reset aspirational goals

News, 22 November 2016

NEW YORK: In a bout of post-election soul-searching, US agencies are reassessing their approach to research and hiring as they consider whether they are employing the right methods and the right people to reach that part of the electorate that propelled Donald Trump to the White House.

"Every so often you have to reset what is the aspirational goal the public has with regard to the products we sell," said Harris Diamond, McCann's CEO. "So many marketing programs are oriented toward metro elite imagery."

Accordingly, he suggested that marketers need to think more about the lives of consumers in places like Des Moines and Scranton, and less about those in New York and Los Angeles.

Over at Y&R, global chief executive David Sable highlighted the erroneous belief that data can now answer all questions and called for agencies to spend more time on the ground with consumers.

"If you want to understand how a lion hunts you don't go to the zoo, you go to the jungle," he told Advertising Age.

Another way to speed understanding of hitherto neglected groups of consumers would be to hire staff directly from them. Diversity has been an issue in agencies, but this has tended to focus on gender and ethnicity.

But a diversity hire "can be a farm girl from Indiana as much as a Cuban immigrant who lives in Pensacola," noted John Boiler, chief executive of 72andSunny, which is planning to expand its university recruitment programs to include rural areas.

Agency structures are also under the spotlight, with the idea of having large regional hubs possibly giving way to more, smaller, local teams better able to supply the distinctiveness their market requires.

In tandem with that may come a new approach to creative that eschews fantasy and escapism.

"The election will have spooked the liberal elite away from high concept, make-the-world-a-better-place" advertising to "a more down-to-earth 'tell me what you will do for me' approach", according to Robert Senior, worldwide chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi.

Data sourced from Advertising Age; additional content by Warc staff