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Client-agency relationships of the future

"Our role as a business and a brand, and the set of experiences we need to offer, has had to move at lightning speed," said Walgreens Boots Alliance global CMO Vineet Mehra. "Things that might have taken a year in the past, amazing teams around the world are completing in weeks."

He joined Lindsay Pattison, global chief client officer of WPP, to discuss the changing agency-client relationship amid COVID-19, a part of Campaign Connect’s two-day worldwide virtual event on the future of advertising in a post-pandemic world.

In some ways, says Pattison, having to do a reset because of the pandemic has been a good experience. "It’s made us realize some of the old stuff, the silos and bureaucracies [weren’t working]. What were we doing? Why did we have so many status meetings?"

There is no option to go back to the old way of doing things, said Mehra, because "the  fact is that the customer has changed as a result of  this. Working the same way will not allow us to meet our customer’s needs, society’s needs and our communities’ needs."

Moving forward, agencies and their partners need to embrace a structural overhaul that upends their traditional way of doing business. "The systemic challenge facing our industry over the next several years is how do we set ourselves up in partnerships to meet unprecedented demands as we move forward and with all our models being challenged?"posed Mehra.

Key to that new agency-client relationship is ensuring data, technology and automation experts share center stage with creative teams, rather than staying put on the fringe, Mehra said.  Account managers and strategic planners can no longer form the nucleus of an organization.

"Critical to our strategy is that data has to be the center of relationships; I don’t see data and creativity as separate things," said Mehra.

The outcome is no longer just about delivering a great ad, it needs to be a first-party data-driven strategy that gets matched and programmatically connected to customers, he added.

"The bottom line," said Mehra, is that "we have to do a ground up reinvention of the [agency-client] partnership. We have to get rid of these siloed P&Ls, we have to transform the talent and we have to build entirely new machinery to intake first-party data and automate marketing, while keeping that human touch and kindness as part of it. That’s no easy task."


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