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Today’s agencies go under the microscope at the Agency Leaders Symposium

Agencies under the microscope


Success looks like different things to different people but in the context of today’s agency landscape, I’d wager we could come to an agreed definition. A healthy bottom line, happy staff and satisfied clients would likely be in the mix. Delivering innovative work or winning awards may also signal the success of your business. Agreeing on these indicators is all well and good but how can we achieve them? Particularly in today’s highly competitive market with everyone from employees to clients looking to achieve their own version of success. Pulling together the program for this year’s Agency Leaders Symposium, we’ve been thinking about what makes for a successful agency today. While it’s tempting to gaze ahead five or 10 years, we have remained focused on the now as we examine the DNA of today’s most successful agencies.

Agencies under the microscope at the Agency Leaders Symposium

That’s not to say we’re not thinking of the long term. As Peter Field will tell you, purely concentrating on the short term is a shortcut to oblivion. The man who has been described as the Godfather of advertising effectiveness will open this year’s Symposium with a keynote presentation exploring the nature of short and long-term advertising and the results of each. Field, a UK-based advertising executive who worked closely with the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) for many years, has seen first-hand the damage done by the growth of short-termism in Europe’s marketing sector. It’s fair to say the success of agencies of all disciplines rides on the back of this issue.

Short-termism could well be the secondary theme of the Symposium this year. It’s certainly a factor in our discussion of agency business models. Could a model that works in the short term, one that’s delivering success today, still be successful in the future? Jason Dooris from media agency Atomic 212 is well placed to address this question. Named agency of the year in 2016 by both Mumbrella and AdNews, the business is going from strength to strength making the agency’s business model and how it differs from its competitors one of great interest. Also of interest is how the shifting competitive set is likely to affect businesses such as Dooris’. With professional services firms and management consultancies eyeing the space agencies have commanded for many years, the addition to this panel of Michael Buckley, Managing Director of Accenture Interactive Australia and New Zealand, is not to be missed.

It could be argued that short-termism is also coming into play with the way in which the industry’s up-and-coming talent are navigating their careers. With bright young things being made offers they simply cannot refuse, who could blame them from jumping from agency to agency or even out of the industry altogether? We could sit around and talk about millennials and what we need to do to motivate or keep them in their jobs but we’ve gone one better and invited them to address the Symposium. Led by Clemenger BBDO’s Rachel McEwen and Mediacom’s Andrew Da Silva, five current and former agency Gen Y’s are currently gearing up to talk about what it’s really like to work for you. I don’t know about you but I’m keen to hear what they have to say.

And from the up-and-comers to the upper ranks, we’ll hear from Arthur Sadoun, CEO of Publicis Worldwide, in a keynote interview. Ad Age’s 2016 Agency Executive of the Year is known for being laser-focused on talent and all about collaboration which might not be what you were expecting from the man widely tipped to take over from Publicis Groupe Chairman-CEO Maurice Levy.  

Inspiring success

As we look for ways to make our businesses successful, it’s almost become our default position to focus on startups, particular of the tech variety. In order to succeed in a world modelled on Silicon Valley, we need to be lean, agile and more like Snapchat. Someone that’s taken inspiration from a different part of California is Tom O’Keefe of Chicago-based agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul (OKRP). O’Keefe, a DraftFCB veteran, looked to Hollywood when setting up AdAge’s 2015 Small Agency of The Year. The model of production companies with their collective setup spoke to O’Keefe and seemed like a natural fit given the blurring of the lines between entertainment and advertising. At the Symposium, O’Keefe, who toyed with the idea of calling the agency Whiskey & Bananas, will talk about how he’s found success by being different.

Also speaking on the subject of doing things differently is Bruce Jeffreys, co-founder of car sharing service GoGet and eyewear business Dresden. With a marketing background, Jeffreys will share the rules he reckons can and can’t be broken when it comes to seeking success in addition to his self-described “wacky beliefs” such as forgoing job titles and running businesses with a marketing budget of zero.

Inside your agency

Focusing on the big picture is important but the Symposium will also examine the day to day of agency life. Representatives from the major media agency groups will deep-dive on how technology is impacting today’s agencies from the nuts and bolts of programmatic advertising and technology stacks to the somewhat sexier advances in virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

We’ll also be talking advertising spend as the old guard of media meets the new. Who deserves a bigger slice of the marketing pie: traditional media with its independently audited metrics, time-proven results and well-established offerings or truly digital-first, tech players who can boast never before seen access to data with innovation built into the very DNA of their businesses? GroupM CEO Mark Lollback will lead this discussion.

And we’d be remiss to not include the client perspective. Jenny Willits, Managing Director at J. Walter Thompson Sydney will quiz marketers including IAG’s Jane Merrick and Visa’s Caroline Dempsey about what they want from their relationships with agencies and the importance of trust and transparency.

Michael Combs, founder of the Indigenous intern placement program CareerTrackers, will cover off the topic that’s not going away anytime soon – diversity in adland, a discussion that will also be a part of our round table sessions.

Finally, this year’s Symposium will see Michael Henderson, a corporate anthropologist look at the power of culture as he explains how leaders can use culture to drive performance and deliver business strategies.

We’re excited to be bringing you what many of our Advisory Board members, speakers and delegates are calling an inspiring and well thought-out program. If you haven’t secured your place at the Symposium yet, now is the time to do so.

Get in touch with Gavin now to book your spot at the Agency Leaders Symposium.

About Brooke Hemphill
Brooke is the former editor of Encore and B&T Magazines. She is a writer, producer and marketing communications consultant.