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This Is Not Your Grandfather’s Ad Agency – Be the Agency of the Future Now

This past week I was privileged to speak at the Lexington Ad Club on the topic of the agency of the future. Being a career ad agency brat, I have witnessed the transformation of the ad industry. The business was once the hot bed for young creative talent that gave agencies the reputation for being idea factories. Life was sexy in the world of 30-second TV spots. Today, idea is still king but it is not always found through broadcast and traditional media. Those days are gone. The digital media revolution has been fast and curious and the agency world has had its share of casualties. As the smoke clears, a  new world of marketing agency is emerging. And you know what? I like it. It makes sense. I shared my list of 10 Things to Become the Agency of the Future – Now. Here they are. Are you ready?

1. Walk the walk if you are going to be a marketer.

I walked out of the traditional agency world and realized I didn’t know Jack-squat (official marketing term) about digital marketing. How could I call myself a marketing professional? So I took on the challenge of getting a digital make-over. Sure it was awkward at first, but at least I traded in my Blackberry for an iPhone.

2. Know when to scale up or down.

Clients want to see you don’t always have the same solution for all creative services. Some talent warrants a larger price tag than others. When you employ one web designer, guess who you re going to tell your client is the best person? Having a network of talent at different levels allows you to pull the right one for the gig.

3. Identify your specialists – networking matters.

We are in an age of specialists when it comes to creative design and production. We need great designers. Great developers. Great app developers. Great film makers. Great storytellers.

4. Try something different & uncomfortable with your clients.

Agencies of yesterday were guilty of going to the same solutions over and over again. Today there are so many media channels, clients need to see we are constantly looking for new ways to engage with their customers. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you do, say “that sucked” and move on.

5. Be frugal but clearly make a profit.

The days of scheduling elaborate photo shoots at Shutters in Santa Monica are over. Show clients you are carefully watching their dollars but also be clear on what you are making. By the way, I do not believe in commissions! There I said it. Charge your time but not a handling fee.

6. Blog. 

Blogging continues to grow and research shows that CEO’s and CMO’s read them regularly. It shows them you have an opinion and reveals your marketing insight capability (or not I guess).

7. Peel back the curtain. Collaborate with others and clients.

Agencies were always guilty of acting like there was some big magic show going on when no one else was around. Wanna hear the truth? They worked on other clients business and came up with the ideas at the last-minute. The secret was organized chaos. And that’s a beautiful creative train wreck to watch. I love it. Bring your client into this mess and have some fun. Today’s clients see those hidden meetings as a waste of time. Bring them in so they see the magic. Don’t be surprised if they come up with some cool ideas.

8. Fish where the fish are will always be a smart media-channel strategy.

This is a really simple marketing principle if we stay disciplined enough to follow it.

9. Ideas matter. Always have always will.

Big ideas do not have to be expensive. If we release ourselves from the 30-second TV spot we’ll be free to think about al the other solutions out there. The ideas will get bigger.

10. Build real stories and create conversations. Remember WWBRD?

Today’s consumers have the power. Broadcasting is not an effective marketing strategy (here’s a hilarious example of typical broadcasting-style of marketing). Today’s marketing must focus on engagement. My rule for this is easy – What would Bonnie Raitt do? She’d give them something to talk about of course. Do that in your marketing and you will win.

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