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Posts Tagged ‘digital revolution’

More Like Phil, less like Pat: how traditional ad agencies can survive

November 23, 2010 3 comments

This afternoon, two school buses pulled up to let two groups of students crowd the local subway. The first one freshly painted, new as if this were its first time out. The second, older, the years of service had clearly done their deed on this bus but there it was still running and with no sign of slowing down. Before the first bus could come to a full stop, the students inside were already getting up and making their way to the front while the driver urged them to stay seated. The scene in the second one was completely different, the pupils kept their seats until the driver turned the handle and released the door to let them out. This made me think of the question that’s on every advertiser’s mind now: What’s does the future look like for the industry? While most of the buzz is on how traditional agencies can survive the digital revolution, I’d like to know which people will lead traditional shops and take them from their current state to great agencies that will consistently deliver great results and exceed client expectations?

The Ad industry does not have a Paul the Octopus it can turn to, and none of us can accurately predict what the future holds but to begin figuring out the what and the how, we need to figure out the who. Thus, the answer to the question does not lie outside the box but inside.

Transformations, revolutions, whatever you choose to call them have occurred before this digital revolution began sending shivers down the spine of top creative directors, planners, media strategists and AEs. Every time, agencies have adapted. As Forrester pointed out in its March report on the evolution of the agency relationship, we’re entering an Adaptive marketing era in which “mass media is no longer the foundation of marketing communications, and marketers who change their thinking, will lay the groundwork for partners that are more agile, can build long-term relationships with active customers and communities, and can use data to drive real-time decisions.” Further, what this tells us, in the words of Harry S. Truman, is that “You can accomplish anything in life, provided you do not mind who gets the credit.”

Execs, need to leave their self-interest and egos at the door if they want to take their agencies through this digital revolution. A traditional shop can only become a great shop and breakthrough if the person driving the bus is a great leader. A great leader will bring DISCIPLINE that will happen at three levels: PEOPLE, THOUGHTS, and ACTIONS. I only want to deal with the PEOPLE stage for this post.

When you look at the 90s Chicago Bulls and the modern-day Lakers what common denominator exists? Phil Jackson! Behind his quiet and reserved persona this self-effacing guy showcases fierce resolve to do whatever is necessary to turn raw, untamed talent into great talent. He is able not only to shift his own ego and self-interest away from himself but teaches his players do the same and focus on the greater goal of the organization. We need more humble Phils than high-profile Pat Riley at the exec level. Only the Phil Jackson will be able to take traditional shops through this revolution.

Why do I think the Phil Jackson type are the beginning of the answer? Rather than walking in with over the top strategies, and impose their visions, the Phil Jackson types will first get the right people on the bus (Kobe) and let the wrong ones off. With the right players in the right seats, an agency will begin having DISCIPLINE THOUGHTS.

Where do you think the great leaders will emerge? Have your say in the comments section.