Architects of growth
Nadim Samara, CEO, OMD UAE
A nticipation: the trepidation that you feel when you know what is about to happen. The signs are all there and the components are all in place. Data is plentiful, tech is available, talent is ready, you know what to do but you’re not tapping the screen just yet. The finger is hovering just above, while you wait for the signal.
Much has been said about business transformation and while it’s clearly the ambition for many companies, there’s a long, and potentially arduous, run before they can jump. The fact is, like a bad case of writer’s block, it’s the beginning that’s the hardest.
Most of the time, the real problem is the lack of internal buy-in and resistance to change, even if most people accept that transformation is inevitable. Old habits die hard and silos make comfortable homes it seems. This tunnel vision has become a form of protection, preservation even, and has hindered the path to transformation with significant stumbling blocks.
Just consider marketing transformation. It relies heavily on the collection and analysis of a growing number of data sources, and yet data sharing isn’t happening to the extent required. The ring-fencing around descriptive business and consumer data is understandable, but it inhibits performance when agency partners aren’t given the information they need. The very notion of collaboration and common interest seems to crash on the solid walls of siloed thinking.
Too often, companies look and feel like a collection of departments that operate in isolation from each other. Sometimes working with divergent sub-agendas, their limited collaboration hinders the collective performance and that of their external partners. It’s as if marketing, sales, IT and analytics speak different languages despite the common goal they were created to achieve.
This often leads to agencies working without the input they need to meet the ambition they share with their clients, which is to deliver tangible and measurable business outcomes. Often, instead of getting access to meaningful data from which to work, agencies still get partial briefs, pre-defined budgets and static marketing calendars. Fluidity, accuracy and relevance have been relegated to the bench. It’s like fighting with your hands behind your back.
Instead of prioritising it as a way to deliver higher-return communications, many approach measurement, data and tech as mere items to tick on a list. To them, it’s an afterthought, a necessary evil even, when it’s the cornerstone of modern and effective marketing. Strategies must be built from the ground up, starting with a solid data and tech infrastructure.
Clearly the marketing function is under intense pressure. With everything around marketeers spinning at increasing velocities, they need to adapt to numerous changes at the same time. Consumer expectations and behaviours are evolving in front of our eyes. The ways to reach, communicate and engage with them are mutating rapidly too. Traditional formulas are showing their limits and technology is evolving from enhancing human decisions to replacing them fully. Sales and marketing have always had a somewhat tense relationship, and today’s CMOs are increasingly tasked with contributing to lead and revenue generation. This new KPI has made their tenure in the C-suite the shortest.
Well, it’s high time to stop running and start jumping. The transformation of marketing can be achieved by turning the clientagency-partner relationship into a tighter partnership. We’re all batting for the same team and share a common goal: our brands’ growth.
Once this is acknowledged and formalised, agencies will be empowered and given the assets and access they need to deploy their full human and machine intelligence. This needs to be a live relationship, based on agility and responsibility. The more we know, the better decisions we can make. The better the data, the faster the decisions. Marketing doesn’t work in isolation from the rest of the business and the goal isn’t just growth, but profitable growth. There is little to be gained from keeping agencies at a distance.
The agency model is also evolving, in terms of its service offering, its talent base and its remuneration structure, among many other facets. Exposed to all forms of business transformation, their clients’, their partners’ and their own, agencies are fast becoming experts on how to guide, manage this process and, most importantly, leverage the outputs. It all begins by knowing a client’s business intimately, as well as, if not better than, they do themselves.
Clients and agencies will be bound by a new singular agenda, a new agreement if you will, that will see them achieve unseen levels of collaboration and outcomes. These will be achieved thanks to new structures, processes and technologies such as Omnicom’s Omni. This platform transforms the way our teams work, collaborate and deliver value by providing a single view of the consumer from insights development to audience building, channel planning, content inspiration and message distribution.
Together clients and agencies will learn to identify what’s truly significant and valuable from the noise, through data and advanced analytics. Empowered by artificial intelligence, creative technology and marketing automation, teams will engineer and deploy personalised consumer experiences, at scale and across channels, to drive superior business outcomes for clients. With a single well of information, transparency will be embedded in the day-to-day dealings across all the platforms used and performance will be the basis of remuneration.
There will be some radical shifts of focus, from short-term gains to longer-term sustainable growth solutions or from reach and engagement to experience and the transactional economy. CMOs will transform into chief growth officers, moving ever closer to business performance. Thanks to an increasingly integrated flow of data, their impact will be much easier to assess and optimise. This will see them being better integrated into their company’s DNA.
The biggest shift of all will be agencies moving upstream, from managing consumer communications to considering all aspects of the product performance, from development and production to distribution and experience. Their technological skills will expand beyond adtech and martech into createch and viztech to generate a higher fulfilment of consumer transactions with brands.
This transformation has already begun. How long it will take and how far it will go is a matter of imagination but there’s no turning back.