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Brands are reorganizing. How must others adapt?

(l-r): Devin Nagy, Diageo; Nancy Hill, Media Sherpas; Bryan Specht, ICF Next; Lindsay Stein, Campaign US; Rachel Baumgarten, Group Nine; Michael Heusner, Campaign US; Samuel Bonnie, Campbell’s Soup Company; Doug Brodman, Twitter
(l-r): Devin Nagy, Diageo; Nancy Hill, Media Sherpas; Bryan Specht, ICF Next; Lindsay Stein, Campaign US; Rachel Baumgarten, Group Nine; Michael Heusner, Campaign US; Samuel Bonnie, Campbell’s Soup Company; Doug Brodman, Twitter

There is no normal in advertising anymore. Facing disruption, brands are risking new ways to get results. How do agencies need to change and adapt to keep up?

"Consumers want to know that your brand cares about things they care about," said Nancy Hill, CEO, Media Sherpas. "That the brand is pushing grounds. Brands have to put their money where their mouth is in terms of giving to their communities. Brands are much more transparent."

Hill was speaking as a participant at a roundtable with editor of Campaign US Lindsay Stein as chair. Leading adland marketers gathered to discuss the ways brands are changing and what the advertising industry needs to do to keep up.

Samuel Monnie, former Campbell’s marketer and host of ‘Across The Pond - Marketing Transformed’ podcast interjected a note of caution. "You can’t not have a mission or purpose these days, but equally some of these brands are doing this controversial stuff to get attention. Looking for outrage so that they get attention. There are some wash outs."

"It needs to be authentic," said Doug Brodman, head of US agency development at Twitter. "Relationships with consumers now go two ways, and that give and take has to be meaningful. We see a lot more brands tapping into conversational trends on Twitter to understand what people are talking about, get a deeper understanding of what's happening in culture, and tap into something that is aligned and meaningful."

It’s not just consumer expectations of purpose that have changed – it also service. Social media and the immediacy of communications has had an impact. "Sometimes people say to me, ‘oh, I added such and such a brand. But I didn’t hear back from them’," said Hill. "So, there’s a new immediacy to the way consumers and brands need to interact."

How agencies need to evolve
"Brands’ attitudes to agencies has changed," said Stein. "The days when the executives thought brands were corporate and agencies were creative are gone. More brands are saying they can do the right thing for them, faster, in-house. And they’re looking for the right people to do it."

"Brands are always going to need outside help," explained Rachel Baumgarten, marketing EVP, Group Nine Media. "The perspective is useful. It’s like when you hire a personal trainer. You know what you need to do to get fit but helps to bring in someone from the outside."

"The whole agency model has to change," said Bryan Specht, chief growth and innovation officer at ICF Next. "We find clients are often struggling with a bigger challenge than purely media or creative or purely PR or technology. We go in and facilitate these conversations that develop a solution that, sometimes, our services aren’t going to deliver. But we’re fine with that; that gets us to a place with our client, where they see it as a business with outcomes and results, not just delivering a greater product or greater technology."

Is this disruption creating fresh ideas?
"A couple of clients said that you have to figure out new ways of making money, because the old models are not going to work," said Specht. "We had a client who wanted to restore its brand’s cultural relevancy. We did some research and said to them that it wasn’t about a 30-second ad, they needed to create a cultural shift through film. In the end, we created a feature-length documentary for them which the brand premiered at SXSW last year."

There’s also a feeling that at least some of the new ideas trialled are actually the rediscovery of old ideas applied to new channels and media. "Direct marketers have always known about attribution," said Monnie. "They measure everything, and they understand the consumer, the tone, the brand voice. That’s a foundational skill set."

"One thing people are coming to realise," said Specht, is that data-thinking and creativity are not mutually exclusive. You take the data and you humanise it to generate world-class creativity. We tell our agencies all the time to humanize our loyalty program or some other aspect of our data-driven marketing. It doesn’t need to be a program, it could be brand loyalty, but we’ve got the data."

"You need to take that data and have storytellers turn it into something amazing, right?" said Hill. "I don’t think you can divorce the two. Data without really good story tellers and creative, is not going to get anyone the returns they’re hoping for." 


In attendance:

Lindsay Stein, editor, Campaign US
Devin Nagy, director, technology and emerging trends, Diageo
Nancy Hill, CEO, Media Sherpas
Samuel Monnie, former head of digital transformation, Campbell’s Soup Company
Rachel Baumgarten, EVP marketing, Group Nine
Bryan Specht, chief growth and innovation officer, ICF Next 
Doug Brodman, head of US agency development, Twitter
Michael Heusner, senior reporter, Campaign US

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