Tag Archives: creative recruiting

The Ad Agency Outlook for 2013

Happy Days Are Here Again

xctmppjah6YThe S&P is at an all-time high. The Dow is over 14,000 — more than double January 2009. Warren Buffet says “opportunities abound in America.” Believe him, he knows what he’s doing. It took 5 years, but our nation survived George W. Bush and is prospering once again. We leapfrogged the fiscal cliff and we’ll kick aside sequestration (like a Government shutdown would be such a bad thing?).  All this can go bust with the flick of a Bic; but, as they say in the Google search bar: I’m feeling lucky. By the way, Google’s stock price closed at $821 per share today, another record high.

I see a turnaround. I see agencies pitching a lot of business. I see agencies recruiting and hiring good people. I haven’t seen it quite like this since the glorious Clinton administration in the creative advertising industry. Yes, a lot of the growth has transpired in the Digital sector; but we’ve also seen growth in more traditional agencies that have transformed themselves into hybrids. This transformation is driven by talent — not just by simply adding disciplines, but by recruiting and attracting the best talent in the marketplace.

Notice that I say “in the marketplace” and not “on the marketplace”. The bad economy of the past four years caused a lot of bad habits, which are listed below.donnydeutsch1_175 But, I’m happy to report that the era of agencies and clients playing it ultra-safe and conservatively is over. To prosper in the new economy, agencies must once again focus on their inventory: the talent pool. 

5 Habits Agencies Must Break to Exploit the New Economy:

1.  Category-driven Prospecting — As Donny Deutsch said in 2003, “kill the category lists.” The bad economy forced clients to seek “round-peg/round hole” solutions. Fortunately, we can be marketers once again. Our reputation can rest on our creative product and its connection to effectiveness, and not on category expertise.

2. Specialization-based Positioning — In the doom-and-gloom darkness of the past few years, agencies have been forced to move away from their real point of differentiation: Creativity.  And for good reason, creative had become a devalued commodity — like home values during the housing crisis. But, creativity is back and content is once again, king. We can get back to being creative companies, and not “fully integrated whatever.”

3. Online RecruitingIf you want top creative talent, they are not going to respond to an ad on a job board. Your ad will attract unemployed candidates, job-hoppers, underachievers and folks that want to “get into advertising because it’s cool.” You will attract the best available talent ON THE MARKET. You will never get the top 10% of talent IN the market. FACT. The best people are busy creating great work. I’m happy to report that most creative agencies with pride in their product recognize this as well. This is not to say there’s not a place for online job resources, just not for leadership and key positions at your agency.

4. Jobvites/Employee Referrals More short-cut, cheapskate nonsense propagated by a bad economy. Once again, these practices produce what’s available. This tin can is so rife with worms that it ensures a fishing expedition. What if the hire doesn’t work out? What if the internally referred candidate is not quite as good as another? What if that candidate uses you for a counter-offer? What if they are not the right cultural fit?

5. Collaboration Platform — Why do agencies talk about collaboration so much? Is it unusual for a vendor to listen to their clients? Seems that way. Luckily, we can move away from this and back to leadership, stewardship and seeking out clients with like-minded missions and purposes. To drive this point home, let’s quit on Wieden + Kennedy’s Philosophy — leaders attracting leading brands:

OUR PHILOSOPHY

wkLogoA brand must be willing to lead consumer expectations, not follow.

At Wieden+Kennedy, we do communication. Creativity. Ideas. We build big brands and deep relationships.

We help create brands that lead popular culture, not merely reflect it. Because we believe brands that influence culture sell more.

2013 Digital Marketing Predictions

The Prognosis for a Healthy 2013 

When you have a broken bone in your body, or a faulty organ… what do you do? You usually seek the opinion of a specialist — a surgeon with a track record of curing what ails you. There’s a group of Digital specialists in New Haven, CT that call themselves Digital Surgeons (http://www.digitalsurgeons.com). These guys rock. Just blocks from the Yale University campus, these eggheads are inventing leading edge technologies that will blow your mind. Recently, they published 32 somewhat bold predictions for the year ahead in Digital Marketing. mikepalma.com is proud to share them with you. Enjoy, and apply as needed.

Marketing:

Video will get bigger as a medium

People aren’t getting any less lazy in 2013. Why read a blog post when the same information can be conveyed to you in a 30 second video? With streaming quality increasing and camera prices decreasing, in 2013 it will be easier than ever to produce and then distribute content.

Inbound marketing will grow within brands and businesses

The role of the content strategist will rise in conjunction. Strategic content will drive inbound marketing efforts and increase the need for full-time employees to curate that content.

International will be the new domestic, for many

The internet has made our very large world navigable from the comfort of our couches. The same will be said about e-commerce in 2013. With exciting young companies such as FiftyOne making American brands easily attainable all over the world, the term “foreign markets” might begin to seem a bit dated in 2013.

The idea of thinking global and acting local will be turned on its side with businesses thinking local and acting global.

Experiential and brand experiences will be the new website

The standard HTML homepage will increasingly be blown out of the water by interactive elements and experiences that surpass digital.

Mobile will finally start to be a real concern for marketers

This will force us to be better at delivering better mobile experiences (responsive, adaptive, context driven): This 2013 prediction is nearing the ranking of “Broken Record” in the marketing world for how often it is discussed. The conversation keeps occurring because of the astronomical amount of data pointing towards mobile dominance in 2013. Morgan Stanley is predicting that there will be more mobile devices (tablets and phones) accessing the internet than traditional computers (laptops and desktops) in 2013 for the first time EVER.

The term big data will be abused as agencies promise magic insights based on analytics

Data regarding demographics and reach will be the driving factor behind marketing decisions in every area. More media outlets will hire more statisticians, developers and computer scientists following the wild success of Nate Silver’s election coverage for the NY Times. Punditry will suffer at the hands of big, meaningful data.

Brands as platforms will be a big aspect of content strategy

The past few years have a seen a much bigger push for both content and innovation from brands. Brands that have pushed the envelope have consistently won both critical acclaim and increases in revenue. 2013 will show an increase in brands pushing the envelope in terms of product creation and new business units in an attempt to excite consumers.

Brands will start really listening to their customers

And, thus, a new form of advertising will be born where the brands act as the facilitator for what the customers collectively agree they want. The importance of data and brand advocates as well as the amount of tools available will aid this trend.

Social Media:

We will see more social media gurus

As social media grows in popularity, so too grows the number of 20 somethings who claim to be experts. What exactly qualifies one as an expert, or a “guru”, is up for interpretation so in 2013 you will see an even larger amount of people “interpreting” themselves that way.

Social media agencies of record will grow

The rationale will be a bigger need for social CRM support and influencer programs. As the importance of social media grows, the need for experts in the field will become equally important. No gurus here.

Pinterest will only get bigger

Clearly written in the Pinterest mission statement, it says: “There is always more room for cute cupcake recipes and shirtless Jake Gyllenhal pictures”. We kid, it doesn’t say that (but it should). For all of the potential knocks against Pinterest it is still a beautifully designed platform and concept that has miles to go before it sleeps (see: dies like friendster and myspace). Brands are currently struggling to use it for marketing purposes already without an available public API. Once a public API is released to developers in the coming year, the possibilities are endless.

Twitter will keep stepping on toes

Twitter burned some bridges this year with moves like ending firehose access and cutting itself from Instagram. 

Facebook will be a-ok

It has been quite a tumultuous year for Facebook, but we’re still behind them 100%. Their innovation related to ad units as well as the addition of Gifts this year has shown the companies continued focus on sustainable, business minded innovation. It’s tactical moves such as these that will allow them to return to a share price over $30.

Brand social interactions will have to get more personal and creative in 2013

This is due to the lack of polarizing global events (Olympics, Elections, etc.) News jacking will need to be a bit more inventive as the topics won’t be as predefined or dominating.

Retail outlets that stock products and brands voted on by its customers via social media

Give the people what they want! Social media gives everyone a voice and in 2013 we will see retail outlets begin listening to that voice a lot more closely while stocking their shelves.

Design:

There will be more Pinterest copycats

We’re starting to see it already, the term “Pinterest-style” has infiltrated marketing vocabulary when discussing grid-like visual design. While we love Pinterest, we cannot promote additional copycat designs for EVERY situation. In addition, sites like The Fancy and Wanelo will continue to pop up and attempt to pull revenue away from Pinterest.

Infographics will have to step it up to maintain relevance

The one page “factsheets” are a dime a dozen and won’t cut it anymore. Everyone and their mothers are creating infographics now. It’s hard to imagine a piece of information that hasn’t been visualized in some sort of goofy cartoon format. Audiences are now almost as blind to infographics as they are to the formalized studies that the data originated from. Data must be visualized in real time, interactive formats in 2013. With information changing so quickly, static content is no longer appropriate to create.

Web design will shift to a more app-like style

And will, in turn, accommodate for responsive layouts.

Vertical and collapsible navigation will become more prominent

With a larger focus on the end-user in modern design, choices need to be avaliable. Maybe someone doesn’t want to be able to navigate. Maybe they want their website to look uncluttered. Features such as collapsible navigation will become common place as the end users are given the tools to alter the design experience to their preference.

Minimal color-blocked design will be the new trend

Microsoft will (wrongly) get the credit. Color blocking has been a trend within digital and outside this season. We’ve seen color blocking gain momentum in fashion as well. Color blocking is great for breaking up content, categorizing information and creating more visually appealing design.

Technology:

Mobile Payment, not just for Starbucks anymore

Even banks have hopped on this trend with new tools such as Chase Quick Pay and V.me from Visa. Not only will the exchange of money between friends become digital, but tools like Passbook will allow users to pay through their phone.

More home automation and sensor/app driven combinations

The Nest is just one of many tools that will arrive in 2013 and force you to ask “How did I ever live without this?” From security measures to heating your place, your home will be just that much nicer when you walk through the door.

The year of Real-Time

Bidding, consumer engagement, customer service. For better or worse, the internet has allowed for instant gratification and that is what consumers now expect. Digital technology will have to operate in real-time or risk the backlash of the angry internet consumer.

One-click checkout will be the norm

Amazon introduced it, the digital world adopted it. One-click checkout has become a minimum expectation for not only Amazon, but also Apple, Google and many other online retailers. More profit for retailers, more goodies shipped to your door!

The rise of Linux

The Linux desktop (via Ubuntu) will finally start getting some recognition due to a perfect storm of Valve throwing it’s full weight behind it (in order to release it’s own Linux powered steam console), canonical working with hardware vendors and game developers, and the arrival of windows 8 driving some users away. It won’t become a major player, but all of a sudden people who wouldn’t have known about Linux will hear about it this year. The niche PC gaming enthusiasts may begin defecting. It will also continue to gain traction in foreign governments and education, but the U.S. won’t look away from its Android and iOS devices long enough to notice. Mostly, as mobile devices become more popular and gaming on Linux becomes more capable, this upcoming year will set the stage for revolution in the PC gaming that could revitalize the industry while simultaneously making Linux a big player for the consumer.

SAAS (Software as a service) and PAAS (platform as a service) will grow among business

The ease of delivery and constant support will cause “____ as a service” offerings to continue to grow in 2013. Cloud based software is projected to double by 2015. Businesses have so many different options to choose from as well, with established companies in the space such as Oracle and Salesforce being outshined by a myriad of innovative startups.

The 10-foot user interface setup will start to become more commonplace as TV’s get smarter

More than this, the multi-device experiences will become more common and it will be standard for the mobile device will supplement the content on your television. Companies will see this like they saw the world-wide web & try to abuse it for marketing.

Misc:

Second screen experience

chatter will continue but the numbers still won’t catch up fast enough. It’s going to take a universally accepted platform for this phenomenon to become common place; hashtags on twitter just won’t cut it

Startups will be fewer and farther between

We predict that investors will wise up and realize that so many of them have no business plan or plans for profitability. Current startups that offer free services will look to monetize.

Television manufacturers create a TV with a built-in motion sensor

After the success of the Microsoft Kinect and Smart TVs in the past few years, it makes sense for television manufacturers to cut out the middle-man (Microsoft’s Xbox 360) and to begin offering motion sensing capabilities directly

Up for Debate:

You’ve heard our two cents (at least), but what do you forsee for 2013? Our office couldn’t decide on these major topics, so let’s hear it.

Instagram

The social network had a fantastic 2012 with the $1 billion acquisition by Facebook and a user base surpassing 100 million. However, a recent Terms of Service chance (effective Jan. 16) gives considerable control over photos to Instagram and has the newly acquired 100 million ready to flock. Will Instagram overcome the negative press and suspicious users or will it fall into the social media graveyard?

Apple

As rumors swirl of the next iPhone and the long-awaited Apple TV, our staff continues to remain undecided on Apple’s future. Some think the enormous stock value and 2013 iDevices will keep the loyal fanboys and girls, while others feel Samsung has made significant advances and Apple’s lack of innovation this year will cause the company to suffer. What does 2013 have in store for Apple?

QR Codes

While we’ve never been fans of the QR code trend, we have seen them everywhere this year: in subway tunnels, on street signs, in magazines. We tend to prefer more enriching experiences (augmented reality anyone?) but meanwhile QR codes sneak their way in as a touchpoint for many campaigns. Will QR codes become more popular or fall short?

Fiercely Indistinguishable

Agency Positioning in a Sea of Sameness

The beautiful thing about language is that it catches on. When folks find a befitting phrase that captures their circumstance, it can take on a life of its own. And imagesat the tipping point, it becomes a phenomenon. This was the case with the phrase “voracious reader.” Somehow, anyone with three paperbacks on their nightstand in the 1990’s was suddenly a “voracious” consumer of the written word. The phrase took on a slight tone of literary condescension (most condescension is slight and subtle). For example, if you had a  Sports Illustrated on your nightstand, you really didn’t qualify as a voracious reader. To qualify as truly voracious, one was required to juggle several titles at a time from the New York Times bestseller list.

Rather than attack all the similar things ad agencies say about themselves (“best-in-class,” “fully integrated,” etc.), let’s just take a look at a currently persistent one: Fiercely Independent. I know, it sounds so cool and maverick. It screams, “we’re such tough hombres.”  There are two problems with “Fiercely Independent.” The first is,  it’s redundant to the point of weakness. Adjectives can be dangerous like that. Secondly, it’s become such a common theme among independent agencies that it’s lost all effectiveness as a point of differentiation. But, certain phrases are simply irresistible.

W. Somerset Maughm said, “Money is the string with which a sardonic destiny directs the motion of its puppets.” Independent agencies attempt to connect their w-somerset-maughambusiness brevity to a tangible financial benefit for the prospective client. Translation: “you don’t have to pay out a percentage to a holding company.” I suppose that kind of claim may be an endearing approach with Procurement. But not a single marketer in history has ever been fired because they retained a holding-company agency. Conversely, LinkedIn is littered with former client-side VP’s who took a chance on the latest independent creative Hothouse. Clients buy great creative that works. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to them where their money goes. Price doesn’t matter. It never did and it never will.

Go ahead and google “fiercely independent ad agency.” The search reveals no fewer than 27 agencies — some of which are among the best-known in the industry. One is actually an IPG agency that claims to be “fiercely independent” but can also “instantly” enlist “an army of 23,000” people through an “odd twist.” They conclude their positioning with “who we are depends on what you need.” Now that’s what I call putting a stake in the ground. As the inimitable Tim Bayless often cackled, “We have our principles — and if you don’t like those, we have plenty of others in the back.”

I suspect that I could have turned up more than 27 fiercely independent agencies; except one agency, Moroch, so thoroughly dominated the SEO search term that they ronaldtook up 15 pages of results. Yet, I subsequently googled “independent ad agency” and they didn’t turn up until page 5. The irony here is that it is plausible for a mid-sized or challenger brand marketer to run a search for an independent agency. But, it’s laughable to think a CMO will actually google for a “fiercely independent” agency. Congratulations Moroch, you own the word “fiercely”. Way to go. The further irony is Morch’s bedrock client is apparently regional McDonald’s franchisee groups. How independent it must be to push the McRib (what is that thing, anyway?).

The moral of the story is stop talking about independence and be independent. Lead your clients fearlessly. Stop selling on price and get to the real tangible benefit of your agency to your clients’ business: you make them money, not save them money.

Calling An Agency Review? 3 Reasons Why The CMO Should Be Part Of The Process From The Start

This article is by Lisa Colantuono, co-partner of AAR Partners, an agency search consultancy. It first appeared in Forbes on September 20, 2012.

Chemistry is vital but compatibility is the core of a successful relationship, and when relationships have both it sets the stage for enduring partnerships that create some case-study results.  Yet the average tenure for many client-agency relationships range anywhere from four to six years. Why?

AAR Partners recently received a call from a spirits company inquiring about our service to manage a review.  Whenever we receive these calls, our policy is to ask, “Why are you considering an agency search?” The intention behind the question is to evaluate if the search is truly necessary. In this case, the potential client responded, “It’s five years. It’s time.” The hidden meaning behind that answer is usually one of relationship problems, change in client and/or agency leadership, poor results and/or quite often flat creative.

Just like in personal relationships, divorce has become commonplace in business relationships. The toll on lives in terms of behavioral and societal difficulties defy measurement, and when it comes to business break-ups, there is a deep economic impact for both sides. Aside from the lost income to the agency, the client also suffers a loss by needing to go through a learning curve with a new agency aside from the two to three months it typically takes to go through the process of a properly managed agency review.

So how do some client-agency relationships endure for two, three or even 10 times the industry average like, say, General Mills and Saatchi & Saatchi since 1928, or Wrigley and BBDO since the 1933? They don’t consider themselves “client-agency relationships.” Instead, they consider themselves “friends all contributing to a successful business partnership.” And it all starts with the CMO as the keystone of the friendship.

Here are the key characteristics of successful relationships and why CMOs must be part of a new agency relationship starting with the agency search:

Friendship. Strong friendships create staying power. In the business world, strong relationships create enduring partnerships. They not only enjoy rolling up their sleeves at the same conference room table, but also breaking bread together. So what does this have to do with the CMO being part of the review process from the start?

People like people who have similar personalities, work ethics and integrity. Of course, all are necessary for successful relationships but hard to determine if the CMO is not in the room. “Fit is everything. At the end of the day, your agency and CMO must have a deep personal connection that leads to transparency and trust. Their personalities and working styles have to not only be compatible, but also need to be perfectly aligned,” according to Amy Muntz, president of Neiman.

Communication. As obvious as this may seem, constant communication is key to any successful relationship, whether it is personal or business, and it must be solid from the start. Those who are able to openly express their thoughts, insights, hesitations and concerns instead of burying frustrations always have a way of coming out at some ground-breaking position.  Again, this starts with the CMO. The CMO who articulates the vision not only for the company but also for the brand is what separates the good CMOs from the great. If the CMO isn’t part of the agency-review process from the start, there is a tremendous missed opportunity to ensure that everyone on both the client and agency side are on the same page. If not, that vision can be subject to interpretation and in danger of not being translated into transactions in the end.

There are often times when CMOs feel that they will empower their team to manage the review process and they will be part of the final pitch as an “objective third party.” There is a lot of value behind leading but not micromanaging. However, we’ve come to realize that if you don’t come to the first meeting, you should not go to the last. “In theory, it is great to give authority to the team who works on the day-to-day agency relationship, but sometimes those decisions are overturned later in the process by the CMO, therefore turning the process on its head, which can be demoralizing for the marketing and agency team,” says Barbara Stefanis-Isreal,  senior VP and director of marketing for MARC USA.

Collaboration. Great collaborative efforts come from great chemistry, and great chemistry must be determined from the start, which is why CMOs should be part of chemistry meetings scheduled at the start of the process. “Marketers are often quick to stress collaboration both from and within their agencies. Yet, they sometimes fail to collaborate within their own marketing departments,” says Michael Palma, president of The Palma Group. Chemistry meetings are a key opportunity to evaluate agency philosophy and culture, approach to business and creative solutions, as well as team dynamics within and between the client/agency teams. CMOs who arrive only for the final decision are in jeopardy of making a subjective decision based solely on creative instead of a comprehensive decision regarding the entire process based on research, strategic thinking, integrated business solutions and measurement. It also sets the tone for a non-collaborative relationship that’s often the set-up for a short-lived agency relationship.

Client-agency teams must be in sync from the start, and that begins with having the CMO in the room. They set the stage, share the vision, define the role of the marketing team and establish expectations.  Scott Goodson, Chairman of StrawberryFrog, says, “CMOs should dig into the team and experience first-hand how they come up with strategic and creative excellence, how they think on their feet, how they react to change.”

That sense of security so vital for both parties in the relationship? It’s dependent on the CMO being part of the process from the start.

Blow Up Your Agency in 5 Easy Pieces

Don’t fiddle while Rome burns…

Talk is cheap, as Keith Richards taught us. It’s time to stop analyzing this. Analysis is paralysis. It’s time to act. You love the smell of napalm in the morning? So, let’s make some:

  1. Fire that Abusive, Adulterous Client — You know who they are. Everyone has one. They think they own you. You let them. They will kill you with a toothpick. Whack them first. It will be better for morale in the long run. You may have to lay off some enablers, but sometimes it’s good to cut out the dead wood. This client threatens you. They run you through flaming hoops. They seek creative sex on the side.  Do you really want their money? Who’s the whore — them or you? Make it them. Marry Madonna, not the whore.
  2. Turn the Firing Into a Press Release — Crispin has done this well. They fire the client citing “Creative Differences” and take the story to the Trade Press. They make it clear that they have experience in the category and they are now actively seeking a new partner that would like to exploit that experience to their advantage. Crispin did this quite well when they “fired” Nike and were subsequently hired by UnderArmor. What is more compelling than a “man bites dog” story?
  3. It’s the Creative, Stupid — Strategy is good. So is Service. And, it’s awfully nice of you have an Understanding their Business. Digital fluency… hey, great. Clients consider all these things to be included in the price of playing poker; mere table stakes. These are checked boxes and all are purely a means to an end. That end is Creative Execution. You’ve invested millions in cool office space, facilities, processes and technologies — but, your creative is just fair, at best. If you can’t sell your agency with your work, then good luck selling it with all this other stuff. Above all else, clients seek agencies for their CREATIVE communications. Do great work and new business will come to you. You want Inbound Marketing? Then do great work. How? It starts at the top.
  4. Hire Leaders, Fire Followers — What’s at the top filters down. If you are retaining leadership (Creative or otherwise) simply to maintain existing business by not making waves or rocking the boat, then you will never grow. You will continue running on the treadmill. You will only get phone sex and not the real thing. Your coffee will be decaf. Sorry, but to grow, you have to risk rocking the boat. Your good clients will recognize and respect that you are really acting in their best interests by changing. You are upping the ante. You are improving your game. Stand still, and you will die a slow death.
  5. Be Decisive, Don’t Look Back — Put a stake in the ground. What is your agency’s value proposition? How do you create a point of differentiation? If you create nothing else — create that. Make that POD own-able. Then rebrand yourself accordingly. Make it simple and universally understandable. If you have to explain who you are in more than 20 seconds…then BLOW IT UP. It won’t work anymore. The rate of change around you is so rapid. you’ll get whiplash.

Blow Up Your Agency? 6 Telltale Signs Why

Make that change…

So, you’re looking at the man in the mirror. You are an agency CEO/President or Chairman/Owner. The man in the mirror is asking you if you need to make a change. He wants to know if you really believe in what you’re selling. He wants to know if you’re checking in or checking out.

The Boston Red Sox just blew up their entire franchise. Let that serve as a profile in courage. They unloaded their 3 best-paid and biggest stars on the unwitting LA Dodgers for 3 minor leaguers and a bag of peanuts. Why? They recognized it was time to pull the plug on what wasn’t winning. Sure, they could sell out Fenway Park and just wheelbarrow cash to the bank in the near-term. But, they recognized that the model was unsustainable. At some point, they would lose customers (clients) that felt deceived by a lack of propriety and fiduciary responsibility that is incumbent upon community institutions.

Ad agencies should take note. In the mad scramble to be everything to anybody (or to be whatever you aren’t) — you’ve lost your way, Mr. President. You’ve let the inmates run the asylum. They’re eating fried chicken and drinking beer and you enable the bad behavior. Change is almost always good — especially for mid-sized, independent creative agencies. The temptation is always to resist change, never to embrace it. Change is hard. It’s messy. It comes with risks. Change takes courage. Everyone has their 6,000 square- foot home mortgage to protect. But, it’s the guys that take a second mortgage out on their homes so they can change their agency business model and process who will succeed moving forward. Playing it conservatively and running a Calvinist company will endear you to the Board of Directors, but it will also make you an also-ran in the next year or two. Why? Because the rate of change in the world around us has accelerated to the point that you have to change drastically just to keep up with it.

Have you recently had the feeling that the agency is running you, instead of vice-versa? I hear that from my buddies and clients. If that’s the case, blow it up. Take back control of your agency. Don’t confuse adding disciplines like digital/mobile/social and or adding departments as change. You can put a tattoo on an accountant, but remember, he’s still an accountant.

Nobody asked me, but here are 6 Telltale Signs Why You Should Blow Up Your Agency:

  1. You Haven’t Paid Out Bonuses in Several Years Despite Profitability — Do you think your employees are stupid? Do you think they can’t figure out where the money is going? Blow up that model. Reward your best people or fire them.
  2. You Have Not Won a Major Creative Award in Several Years — One Show Pencil, Cannes Lion, Communication Arts. Creative Awards have taken a huge hit in the dark era of bean counters and ROI. Fortunately, we just passed through that tunnel. Creativity and awards are back and clients are again seeking the award-winning agencies. According to a study by Millward Brown, award-winning work is 2,000 times more likely to be effective than non award-winning work. Clients trust Millward Brown.
  3. The Majority of Your Employees Arrive after 9 AM and Depart by 5:30 — The surest sign that efficiency has sunken into your agency culture. Efficiency is bad for growth; it tricks you into thinking everything is just fine. Efficiency allows your employees to hold you hostage to outdated processes. It saps creativity.
  4. Your Biggest Accounts Have Been With You for More than 5 Years — Agencies brag about “long-standing client relationships” and they should. But, after a while, your culture simply reflects that of your longstanding clients. You become them. This isn’t bad. What’s bad is that you never added anyone significant on top of them.
  5. You Haven’t Been in A Big Pitch in Over a Year — It’s an active time out there. Why aren’t you in the mix? Maybe because people don’t know who you are and what you do best (ya think?).
  6. You Have No Succession Plan — Or at least one that you feel confident in. You have no management committee. You are essentially a benevolent dictator. Nobody else’s opinions really matter — despite the fact that you often solicit them. It’s more important that people like you than are motivated by you.  

Next: How to Blow Up Your Agency

Who Is the New Creative Person?

On the Comeback Trail With the New Kids on the Block

Creativity is making a comeback. After “tech-ing” up the past few years, agencies are beginning to remember what they actually get paid to do: create communications. The axis is shifting back to content from context. And that’s a good thing.

Last week, Google paid $23 million for Frommer’s, a relatively stuffy travel site. True, Google can pull $23 million out of the petty cash drawer, not a significant financial investment. But, it’s the gesture that is symbolic. They paid for content (however pedestrian). The world’s technology king, with all it’s crawlers and spiders, is buying creative content.

Through the growing pains of tech-ing up these past few years, agencies have lost their creative luster. The new breed: creativus millennial doesn’t regard advertising as the creative cauldron of tomorrow. They’re creating new forms of communication and it’s not about sales — it’s about engagement, it’s experiential. They would rather work in Silicon Valley than Madison Avenue. Shoot, are there even any agencies left on Madison Avenue?

I see signs of things coming back full circle, however. Fifteen years ago, you could go into a new business presentation and simply tell the client, “we’re gonna make your brand cool.” If you had the work to back that claim — both in your portfolio and for them in spec — you had a chance of winning the account. Then came the triple-whammy recessions (dotcom bust, 9/11, mortgage crisis: bang, bang, bang) and the bean counters took over. ROI and compliance ruled the road. If you told a client 5 years ago that you were “gonna make their brand cool”, they called security to escort you out of the building.

Well, I’m glad to report that it’s kinda cool to be cool again. Which, in itself, is kinda cool. Clients and therefore agencies are recognizing that the channels are cool, the technology is cool, the new toys/devices are cool. So, the content needs to be cool, too. But the rules of engagement have changed. We’re not selling anymore. We’re telling. We’re conversing.

So, who’s this new creative person today? Nobody asked me, but here are some thoughts:

  • Seeks of the Absolute Truth About Everything — This trait is often referred to by agencies as “curiosity.” Creativity requires a lot of curiosity, for sure. But curiosity should lead to a great deal more — it should lead to an insatiable hunger for the absolute truth. The great creative work and solutions require you to seek the absolute truth about everything.
  • Has an Acute Sensitivity to the Human Condition — You are engaging real people, not consumers. You’re conversing with the man on the street. If you blow off panhandlers and mock the poor, you’re not a creative person. Stop pretending you are. The triple-whammy recession fractured the national and global psyche. Just because you took your IPO money and bought a Dorkmobile (BMW) doesn’t mean you can be shallow or condescending in your communications.
  • Makes Language New — Here we go again with W.H. Auden quotes. Today’s creative person takes the familiar and creates a new vernacular. They translate the anachronistic into the acronistic (acronyms abound!). They are the Kerouacs that write the new Beat Poetry. They blog to change the world (www.diehipster.com).
  • Holds a Mirror up to Mankind — They are the Modern Shakespeares and Eugene O’Neills. They chronicle everyday life and make it seem fascinating. They make the humdrum drum. They show us ourselves for the very first time. They reveal our flaws in a way that they allow us to forgive ourselves.
  • Shows You the World as You Dream It — Only dreamers can do this. Anyone can learn (understand stuff). Some folks can speak well (talk about stuff). But the rare creative person dreams — they dream up stuff. They turn reality into a dream.