What is the operating system of the future agency?
While working on developing what could be the operating system of the future agency, I was fortunate to stumble upon three talks, given at Google’s Firestarters in London. I would like to share my thoughts on what the future OS of an agency should sprout from based on my work and enhanced by these talks.
‘A servant of two masters’
Today’s digital landscape emphasizes the need for agencies to be centric not only to their clients,the brands, but also to their client’s clients,the consumers. Today’s consumers are ever so empowered, they are faced with an amazing amount of choices, with both content and platforms, and are able to both discover information and to share it in practically no time and with no cost. Providing consumers with added value is therefore key to standing out from the clutter of choices and information and drive engagement with a brand. It is therefore an agency’s duty to bridge between brands’ business targets and consumers’ needs.
Driven by data and insights
Actions (and reactions) performed via digital platforms are visible and measurable and can reveal consumers’ true needs. Brands, on the other side, are now faced with vast amounts of data and many possibilities to engage with their target audiences.
But data alone does not create value unless managed and interpreted into actionable ideas. It needs to be delivered in the right timeframes and to the right functions and be accompanied with actionable recommendations. Agencies need to learn how to capture and process this data in order to produce consumer value adding strategies and enable brands to turn data into value.
Faced by multiple options to learn from and engage with consumers, agencies need to develop multiple skills that vary from analysis to strategic thinking, content creation and distribution, community management and more. This has implications on recruitment, structure and culture and demands the ability to offer and to manage multi discipline projects.
Platform agnostic, integrated approach
An agency should be able to look neutrally at the choice of platforms and brand touchpoints, develop a strategy that will maximise the value generated by each and optimise the integration of platforms and of Paid, Owned and Earned channels. When developing tactics, one should think how platforms and channels play together across the desired customer journey. A pinball-machine, or even a football team could serve as metaphors to illustrate such architectures, in both of which the consumer serves as the ball. Multidisciplinary is key and so is the ability to deliver an overall value greater than the sum of those that could be generated by using each platform and/or channel alone.
Collaborative, flexible and fast
Multiple sources of data, multiple options for action and multiple skills and specialities need to be managed effectively to optimise outcomes. Knowledge share is critical and work needs to be integrated from step one of an activity. Nimble client centric teams comprised of diverse disciplines and skills, connected to the rest of the organisation at critical knowledge and workflow touchpoints, may be the answer.
Speed and flexibility are key as real time data enables on-going optimisation of activities and should be capitalised. Today’s agency therefore needs to be able to adjust its tactics/activities in response to consumers’ actions. This requires a more flexible approach towards strategy and working times.
As few agencies can actually own and manage all of the required skills and resources, many projects will require collaboration with 3rd party agencies and vendors.
Diversified remuneration models
New types of activities demand new skills, new working models and new outputs. These in turn need to be translated into new remuneration models as commissions and retainers alone are not sufficient. Agencies and clients, as one, must acknowledge the need to remunerate skill-based, time-consuming and multi-player work in an appropriate and sustainable manner. Project fees and man hour should be acknowledged and priced. A ‘single’ multi-probe activity can consists of all of these models, as well as performance-based bonuses and revenue share.
Letting the people shine
Eventually, all of this stems from the agency’s culture and whereas processes and technology can facilitate workflow, agencies need to know how to make each of its own employees feel they play a valuable part in the creation and execution process. Empowerment is important to allow people to express their voices and to encourage participation and contribution from their skills, experience and passions. It can also contribute to retention and recruitment of talent and clients.
Collaboration requires the ability to let go of idea ownership and work as a team pursuing common goal and this applies both internally and working with multiple partners.
Recognition plays a part in the ability to reach the former as well as to retain ‘star’ talents.
Recruitment plays crucial role as identification of candidates that fit the culture is essential. Flexibility (in approach as well as working hours), curiosity, innovative mind and the drive to experiment (even with the price of failure) are vital characteristics required from our people if we wish to stay on top of this rapidly evolving industry.
Guy Kedar, social media and emerging platforms manager EMEA at MEC