NEVER SAY ‘NEVER’ AGAIN

Re­gan Sav­age on lessons from James Bond.

New Zealand Marketing - - Contents - Re­gan Sav­age is the gen­eral man­ager of mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Ki­wibank

“JAMES BOND IS THE BEST EX­AM­PLE OF HOW BRANDS SHOULD EVOLVE.” Tech­nol­ogy is truly the third wheel in the tra­di­tional agency-client monogamy that has shaped the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try over the last 70 years.

SO SAID the il­lus­tri­ous elder states­man of great Bri­tish ad­ver­tis­ing, John He­garty, at this year’s Cannes Lions Fes­ti­val. Evolv­ing from twinkly-eyed de­liv­ery of tit­il­lat­ing puns, to dead-eyed fa­tigue from years of sup­pressed in­ner tur­moil. From pre­pos­ter­ous vil­lains to gang­sters, hack­ers and ter­ror­ists. From pure fan­tasy to some­thing al­to­gether more cred­i­ble.

Our pro­fes­sion is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing tec­tonic change; im­per­cep­ti­ble un­til you one day find your­self star­ing across a new pas­sage of water at peo­ple who were un­mis­tak­ably on your is­land a mat­ter of months ago. And the change is not with­out a pro­tag­o­nist – it is that same sleek, al­lur­ing force that is driv­ing so­cial and cul­tural up­heaval across the world: Tech­nol­ogy.

Brands are be­ing re­lent­lessly tar­geted by mar­ket­ing-tech providers, and the tech prom­ises tar­get­ing, in­te­gra­tion and ac­count­abil­ity for in­vest­ment that are lifted straight from the KPIS of any CMO. What brand owner, dis­charg­ing their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to their em­ployer, would not want to di­vert fund­ing and re­sources into sub­scrip­tion-based soft­ware that de­liv­ers ef­fi­ciency and rev­enue?

Tech­nol­ogy is truly the third wheel in the tra­di­tional agency-client monogamy that has shaped the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try over the last 70 years. Like any other re­la­tion­ship, agen­cy­client re­la­tion­ships are riven with hu­man frailty, in­clud­ing a ret­i­cence from both sides to have the con­ver­sa­tion that needs to be had, for fear of ac­cel­er­at­ing the demise.

At the same time, given the per­pet­ual bar­rage of mes­sag­ing com­ing at us from all sides, pow­er­ful cre­ative ideas have never been more im­por­tant. ‘Gra­ham’ from Vic­to­ria’s Trans­port Ac­ci­dent Com­mis­sion and Cle­menger BBDO Mel­bourne, and ‘Fear­less Girl’ from State Street Global Ad­vi­sors and Mccann New York, both awarded Grand Prix at Cannes Lions Fes­ti­val 2017, demon­strate the com­pelling force of strong cre­ative ideas. The abil­ity to im­bue a sim­ple vis­ual with so much mean­ing is not one that brands – dis­tracted as they are in al­go­rithms and spread­sheets – should lose their abil­ity to value.

No-one is to blame for this ten­sion. Well-led brands are do­ing what is in­cum­bent on them, as the James Bond fran­chise has done: to achieve per­pet­ual evo­lu­tion in step with the chang­ing needs and tastes of their tar­get au­di­ences – the con­sumers who re­spond to their sur­veys about cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and brand ap­peal, and of course drive their profit and loss.

And nor is there any so­lu­tion, aside from an ap­petite to evolve, and a level of cu­ri­ous en­thu­si­asm for what’s around the cor­ner. Cre­ative agen­cies need to ac­cept that there are dif­fer­ent gears to the con­tem­po­rary mar­ket­ing model – and they need to be­come adept at gen­er­at­ing an ar­ray of cre­ative so­lu­tions from data-driven briefs, re­fin­ing those ideas through test­ing and pro­to­typ­ing, as well as gen­er­at­ing the ma­jes­ti­cally sin­gu­lar ideas that can only come from the chem­istry of hu­man creativ­ity. Who knows? The lat­ter may even im­prove by do­ing more of the for­mer.

As our sec­tor grinds through the gears of change, and agen­cies evolve their prod­uct and build up the tal­ent pool for the new breed of data-driven cre­atives, it is in­evitable that not all agen­cies can cover all the bases they’d like to. Which is why I be­lieve we are see­ing big changes in how brands are run­ning their agency part­ner­ships. Mono­lithic re­tain­ers are be­ing with­drawn, and re­placed by con­tracts for ser­vices, and/or smaller re­tain­ers with a va­ri­ety of spe­cial­ist part­ners who col­lec­tively can bring all the nec­es­sary skills to the ta­ble.

Where will it all end? In al­most all spheres, be it pol­i­tics or fash­ion, or mar­ket­ing for that mat­ter, changes ap­pear to be pen­du­lum swings, and any­one who thinks they’ve dis­cov­ered the for­mula for sta­bil­ity is likely to be dis­ap­pointed. Over time, the col­lab­o­ra­tive spe­cial­ists will un­dergo changes in per­son­nel and am­bi­tion, and com­pe­ti­tion will come to the fore. By which time, en­light­ened large agen­cies will have re­shaped their tal­ent pools, and in­te­gra­tion will again start to pre­dom­i­nate.

In the mean­time, it’s my view that large agen­cies sim­ply need to take it on the chin, and re-think their busi­ness strate­gies to en­sure they are serv­ing a busi­ness need that will ex­ist in five or ten years’ time. That means di­ver­si­fy­ing the types of peo­ple who work in cre­ative agen­cies – data sci­en­tists could be­come piv­otal, as they have within their client or­gan­i­sa­tions. Tech­nol­ogy an­thro­pol­o­gists may be a new breed of plan­ner, who can in­fer fu­ture trends from the ways in which cul­tures and sub-cul­tures are in­flu­enced and shaped by the in­ter­me­di­at­ing ef­fects of tech­nol­ogy.

Ul­ti­mately what mat­ters is the work, and en­abling brands to tell their sto­ries in the most rel­e­vant, com­pelling and au­then­tic ways that they can, us­ing the me­dia plat­forms that their au­di­ences use, and em­brac­ing tech­nol­ogy to min­imise waste and max­imise re­turn. And to en­joy the process by es­chew­ing a loss mind­set, and in­stead fo­cus­ing on the en­tirely new rev­enue streams that could aug­ment the old.

Af­ter all, how can an agency look its client brand own­ers in the eye and tell them they are their best chance of rel­e­vant evo­lu­tion in the eyes of its of­ten fickle con­sumers, if they can’t evolve their own busi­ness? Shaken by change agen­cies may be, but stirred they should also be to make it work for them.

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