6 team changes to reshape the agency model.

The AvengersI was recently reflecting on the role of the new CMO, and it seemed to look like a super hero. But as in any organization, super heroes don’t work alone. They have to have a strong team of specialized superheros, internally and externally. It’s very usual for CMOs to use Marketing and Advertising agencies in order to delivery part of the work, from the strategy to the creative and execution.

I started my “serious” professional career as a eBusiness consultant in a Big Five (the one missing in the current Big Four list). For me it has been a very good school, as I learned how to understand the key aspects of any business (processes, clients, finance, IT) and then provide valuable recommendations in the use of Internet as enabler for these areas. House of LiesIt was a little bit more scientific of what you can watch in the House of Lies TV series,  where Marty Kaan, the leader of “the Pod”, a group of very intelligent, high well paid, always on the move consultants, provided business recommendations sometimes based on intuition and some… lies. We weren’t so intelligent, well paid and on the move, but I still learned a lot in that period.

And then I moved to a marketing agency. Although the main skills of professional services remained  useful, I was facing a new kind of role, with new rules. I then decided to buy some books to know a little bit more about the industry, I remember very well the first one I read, a classic, Ogilvy on Advertising. Mad MenThis book was written in 1985 and describes accurately how the advertising business works (or used to work). If you have seen any episode of Mad Men (that happens in the 60’s)  it’s pretty the same. There are some New Business guys and Account Managers and then Creative Copywriters, Art Directors and when TV was rising, media planners. Production was usually externalized and everybody smoked and drunk a lot.

And this is the big chunk of business of many big agencies today, adding some digital and social capabilities and not much more. The rest of marketing services are delivered by specialized boutique agencies, cheaper and with better understanding of the changing marketplace. Media spending is still balanced into TV (although obviously digital is in constant growth) and still needs of media agencies to distribute the spending. Media agencies could be another chapter in ConstantChangeAhead since they’re facing the “let me know your budget and I will optimize it” to “let me know your objectives and I will tell you how much to spend and where” paradigm shift. But let’s focus on marketing agencies by now.

What the super hero CEO of an agency should do in order to service the super hero CMO client? Here are some ideas:

  • Hire a Consultant. You don’t need a guy with a tie, it’s not the profession, it’s the attitude and knowledge. The consultant is a professional used to understand the key objectives of a client, not from a communications perspective, but from a business  perspective, tackling where the pain points are and setting up strong strategies based on insights and results measurement. Some planners do have this vision, but not all of them. If you are a planner and feel missing that consulting bit, try attending an MBA. It should give you a wider vision on what a company is, their needs and worries. Understanding a company from a CEO perspective will help you understand what the CEO is expecting from the CMO, and then help the CMO to fulfil his/her objectives.
  • Get an analytics team. Planners need strong insights, and most of the times these insights are not coming from intuition, but from asking your consumers. You need a team of people who is capable to extract insights from data. This team has also to help you with web analytics. Understanding the outputs of a Google Analytics or an Adobe Analytics (formerly Omniture Sitecatalyst), is like asking your consumers, but without doing it. You shouldn’t launch any web site, whatever from a landing page to a full portal, without implementing analytics. And not only implement it, but extract all the valuable information these tools provide in terms of insights. Be sure that every activity you do is measurable, and let the analytics team do their job.
  • Set up a strong IT team. It’s very difficult not to find any digital implication in today’s marketing activities and agencies usually tend to get the IT jobs out, subcontracting small companies or freelancers. Controlling IT developments will ensure a good client service and full alignment with your strategies. Your IT responsible should participate in the strategy process, he/she will tell you can can and can’t be done, or suggest technologies you didn’t even know they existed. Innovation comes from IT most of the times, let them some time to get inspiration and respect their work, sometimes we don’t see how complicated are things to implement that look apparently easy.
  • Find omnichannel, UX creatives. Time is over for those creatives who say “I only work TV ads”.  Consumers are everywhere and need consistent concepts that work well in any channel. By understanding the role of each touchpoint, omnichannel creatives can get the most of each one from the creative and executional point of view. Creatives also need to think in terms of User Experience, some consumer empathy will help.
  • Transform the account team in project management team. Sometimes account managers just take the orders and pass them down to the production (creative or IT) team, without thinking if it has any sense. It’s like waiters in a restaurant. But a good waiter knows what’s happening in the kitchen, and can suggest other meal if there is lack of some ingredients, or anticipate that certain meal will take a little bit longer due to its specific cooking. Knowing and controlling the whole process will let you anticipate and manage much better your clients. In the project management paradigm, the project manager manages the team, his/her own team, and is responsible for them and their economics. If account managers just pass orders to other teams without worrying what happens then, they are not going to be able to anticipate and provide good service to their clients.
  • Let your CFO get in the operations.  Setting up a team of super heros in an agency is not an easy task, most of the times because it implies money, so it’s a cost (more an investment, but some people don’t see it that way). In this big agency network world, revenue, profit and headcount(/costs) are typically the three main KPIs a CFO needs to address, but they are not the only ones. A CFO should also take care of understanding chargeability (because then new hirings will be justified by a high chargeability of the teams) and project profitability (because margin comes and goes from there). For this, he/she should set up policies oriented to have a better control of the operations, from the selling process (defining a right cost structure and asking for a realistic hours x profile project estimations), to the execution, asking the project/account managers about project completion status, hours dedicated and real costs incurred. CFOs should evangelize the rest of the company about the importance of a good project financial control, not only from the invoice/PO perspective, but also from the project management perspective.

Do you feel these changes necessary? Are you facing these changes at your own agency? I’d love to hear your opinion on this topic.


2 Comments on “6 team changes to reshape the agency model.”

  1. […] We’re listening about the digital revolution since at least 15 years now, and still many brands don’t have a fully integrated marketing strategy. Even with this long history, it is difficult to find digital savvy CMOs (and don’t even speak about CRM) that are able to define and execute these strategies in order to not only fulfil their business objectives, but most important, connect with their consumers. Some CMOs are aware of their handicap, and are compensating it hiring strategic-integrated agencies, but finding a good one it is probably as difficult as finding a good digital oriented CMO, the digital hype has created a lot of specialized companies that are just that, specialized (check this post about the new agency model). […]

  2. […] Agencies need to reshape to a new integrated model, but CMOs and their teams do also have to provide the right briefings. The better the briefing is, the better chances are that the creative concept will hit bull’s eye (this isn’t new). Most briefs include information about the product and its value proposition, about the target, about the brand. But many times briefs lack business objectives. What do you want to achieve with the campaign? Is it awareness? is it sales? How much? This is important as creatives tend to justify their work with emotional attributes linked to the brand. But even if the business objective is pure awareness, creating a brand personality or narrowing the gap with the consumer, there is a final business objective that needs to be fulfilled. Let’s assume you created the perfect brief, with your business objectives well defined, and your agency brings back a concept. What would be that one single question to ask? […]


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