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Campaign Breakfast Briefing – The year ahead for advertising and marketing

We headed to London to take part in the first Campaign Breakfast Briefing of 2019. A host of creative minds gathered to talk about what the year ahead has in store for the advertising and marketing industry with some interesting points raised throughout the morning.

In a constantly shifting commercial climate and economic uncertainty over Brexit, budgets, business models and agencies need to change the way they operate, which means it’s time to rethink the best way forward in 2019.

This year, agencies must put all the talk from last year into action as tech giants continue to take chunks out of traditional business models, posing challenges for agencies small and large. However, the general feeling in the room was that creative work finally got good again, which was music to our ears.

Talking about how the industry can regain its nerve, Virgin Media’s Lisa Thomas said, ‘There has been a crisis of confidence for traditional ad agencies. Leaders have rested on their laurels for too long; we have to lead clients again. Everyone knows what we need to do. Great leadership, creative strategic thinking and brilliant ideas will bring us out of where we are.’

Diversity of talent and ideas

James Murphy of Adam & Eve talked about the raft of new agencies coming to the forefront. ‘Wonderhood Studios and Uncommon are interesting new start-ups. People working in the top legacy agencies have a much harder job than those just starting out.’ Fellow Adam & Eve partner, David Golding, added, ‘We’re in a good place but we need to have more diversity of talent and ideas. It feels like agency talent has become threadbare over the past few years. Now people can specialise in what they enjoy instead of working for agencies set in their ways, which will only help in terms of creativity.’

The panel agreed that the focus should be on creating value for clients and that agencies need to be more robust in putting value on what they do. Murphy added, ‘During the pitch process we should be sizing up clients as well as them sizing us up. It might be that it’s not the right partnership for us and we shouldn’t be afraid to say that.’

Golding wants people to talk about the value of the brand, rather than just focusing on sales for the next quarter. He also made an interesting point that we should be looking forward to 2023, not just 2019, adding, ‘When you are faced with a challenge, make the change.’

Focus on the long-term

Thomas ended the first panel discussion saying, ‘I see a lot of delegation in the industry. CMOs and CEOs start the big conversations, then they end up at quite a low level. The issue with this is that the thinking gets diluted and it becomes short-term delivery focused rather than strategic. It should be more focused on the long-term. Think about the brand, not the marketing of it. Be brave, think fast.’

Next on the agenda was Future Proofing Your Agency. Is the agency model broken and what can we do to help our businesses navigate tricky times and come out the other side? David Abraham of Wonderhood Studios, said ‘The country is going through a big existential and political challenge. It will be turbulent, but it will create lots of opportunities for clients and agencies to work together. The creative and editorial aspects of brands will be brought together, bringing creativity into solutions.’

Working closely with clients and listening to what they want was high on the list of priorities for Oglivy UK’s Michael Frohlich. ‘Culture is everything. We need the right mindset to bring change and make things happen. That means listening more to clients and their needs and working together. Every industry has challenges and we have to make changes to future proof ourselves.

‘Leaders in business are making the change. Openness and partnership with our clients is key. Working with other people is fine because we can’t do it all on our own. Agencies should partner and be open with data companies and platforms. I think we’re getting it right and we’re continuing to deliver great creative work. Happy clients, means happy people.’

Magnus Djaba of Saatchi & Saatchi agreed with this rhetoric saying, ‘We’re living in turbulent times but it’s a great gift because we create tomorrow’s logic. These are exciting times for agencies and creativity. It’s about delivering value every single time – that’s what we’re all striving to do. Remember this is one of the most enjoyable things to do and get paid to do. Enjoy every day – let’s have a more positive mindset for 2019.’

Abrahams added, ‘Talent is split between programmatic marketing agencies and the natural, chaotic brilliant part of the industry that bubbles up through creativity. But it’s the digital giants who control the data. No networks have first party data, it’s all third party. The battle can’t be won as programmatic is an interim industry. The regulatory changes forced on the tech giants will change programmatic so it will be interesting to see what happens there.’

Don’t be afraid to break stuff and make something new

A highlight of the morning for us was when Vicky Maguire of Grey London took to the stage. Taking a non-traditional route into advertising, her passion and creativity shone through as she spoke. Previously working for Vivienne Westwood she drew on her experiences there saying, ‘I grew up in the ‘80s when Thatcher was in power. We were angry, skint, vocal, and thought the world was going to end. But we didn’t navel gaze, we partied, we made art, we created. Westwood was a visionary; she looked at what was happening around her and capitalised on it. We felt the energy and felt empowered.

‘Creativity can thrive again. I love words like turbulence, break and chaos. Everything’s buggered but that’s when we can create. Sometimes you have to break stuff and make something new out of it. We’ve never had so many tools to work with and when no-one knows what’s going on, that’s the time to do something great.’

So what does 2019 hold for brands and the media? Sarah Threadgould of Which? said brand experience is crucially important – what is the truth? Peter Markey of TSB talked about moving the TSB brand forward and the importance of innovations in digital. He said, ‘The bar is constantly being raised, which is a good thing for brands as it sets the pace. We have to keep innovating in digital and moving the brand forward.’

Brand experience is key

Raquel Chicourel of M&C Saatchi said, ‘Brand experience has existed since the beginning of business; it’s the world around us that’s changed. From website to packaging, everything is media. This has created a shift in the industry. It’s gone from reach to scale. One of the most interesting things is watching how agencies are reacting by what we can offer to clients.’

Markey added, ‘We work with our content marketing agency at WeWork in central London. We all work together on our social and content – it’s like we’re one integrated team. Our starting point was quality, not cost cutting. We’re a big fan of partnerships and affiliate relationships as it brings something new to the table.’ Threadgould was also proud of its close working relationships with its agencies, ‘Completely in-housing is not the solution – we have great input from our agencies and a very agile way of working. At key times of the year we work on site with them so we can react instantly.’

Chicourel ended the briefing by saying, ‘The one thing that clients will want this year, which is what they wanted last year and will want the year after, is business growth. This comes from creative magic and powerful ideas.

‘It’s time to come back upstream with more offerings and proper partnerships. In the last five years a lot of clients and agencies have been chasing buzzwords for the sake of it. At the end of the day, the biggest value comes from creativity.’

What We Learned

• Great creative work and ideas make a difference
• It’s still worth paying for the big idea
• Agencies should apply the big ideas across all media channels
• Change comes from chaos
• Creative work got good again
• We must lead clients with excellent ideas, talent and leadership
• Agencies have to be more robust and put value on what they do
• Partnerships with clients might not be right – don’t be afraid to say it
• We should look forward to 2023, not just 2019
• Think about the brand, not just the marketing of it
• Be brave, think fast
• We need openness and partnership with clients
• Turbulent times create tomorrow’s logic
• Sometimes you have to break stuff and make something new
• Innovation in digital is key
• Business growth comes from creative magic and powerful ideas

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