Twenty twenty. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Here’s hoping that the start of this new decade feels as powerful as it sounds.
The last twelve months have seen immense turbulence as the advertising industry continues to undergo positive transformation. Progress is slow, but it is happening. Chatter is thick with confidence that the new year will bring about tangible change for advertising’s most pressing issues.
Here’s what we believe you can expect to see in 2020.
Big marketers will continue to treat agencies badly -- and agencies will do nothing about it
No budget. Zero scope of work. Procurement-led. Creative robbery in the form of IP ownership. Murky conflicts of interest. Ghosting. Investment of freelancers to meet tight deadlines. Ludicrous payment terms of more than 120 days. Sound familiar?
Welcome to the shitshow. Also known as pitching.
The marketer/agency search game has always been played like this. But it’s getting worse. We’ve heard absolute horror stories, including soul-crushing online auctions in which shops live bid against each other in an onslaught of undercutting savagery. Some (not all) brands are taking advantage of the broken model with abuse of power -- and agencies are letting it happen.
It’s all well and good to call for unity and rally agencies to just say "no" to exploitative terms, but here’s why it won’t change in 2020: Because for every ten shops who refuse to bow to audacious parameters, I’ll show you ten more that will.
Unfortunately, there is no immediate end in sight for this abusive relationship.
Expect to see a little more chutzpah from the 4A’s and ANA
This relationship, however, has been reported to the authorities, and they’re gearing up to do something about it.
The ANA has said it will investigate brutal payment terms in January by conducting the first member-wide survey on the topic since 2013. Meanwhile, it is teaming up with the 4A’s to draw up consultant transparency guidelines for marketers and agencies in a bid to clear the murky pitch waters.
Marla Kaplowitz, president and CEO at 4A’s, has picked up steam in vocalizing her advocacy for agencies on this front. She recently told Campaign US: "An agency's work is their IP, it's their product. And no one should be expecting to get a product that adds value for free. And unfortunately, ghosting has moved from the dating world into the pitching process with some clients inappropriately managing communication to agencies."
Her outspoken stance is welcomed relief for many agencies who have become increasingly disenchanted with the governing body and spent much of 2019 pondering whether or not to renew their membership.
One thing is clear: Pressure’s on for both the 4A’s and ANA to seriously step up its relevance and pace this year to avoid a drop-off in numbers.
We’ll still grapple with a culture crisis -- not a diversity crisis
Sit down with any adland recruiter and they’ll sing praises of the industry leaders’ earnest approach to diversity and inclusion. People want to employ people who do not think like them because they know equality and diversity of thought ultimately breeds better creativity.
In this sense, advertising is not in the grips of a diversity crisis in terms of talent. It is, however, in the grips of a culture crisis.
Agency heads are sincerely searching for a more eclectic workforce and are throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the process without a tick-box mentality. But shops are continually tripping over their own feet when they expect diverse talent to assimilate to a legacy culture.
In other words, agencies hire for talent only to beat it out of them. This is the challenge adland must overcome before more positive transformation is seen on the D&I front.
Projects are the future as quest for mythical AOR business continues
Agency of record contracts are increasingly becoming a rare commodity as marketers shift models and continue to push for project-based work.
It’s having a knock-on effect with the pitch process as many smaller, more nimble shops are ignoring the big reviews and opting to slide in for project execution and build out an AOR relationship from there. This route takes longer, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper.
Meanwhile, bigger players are continuing to throw their hat into the ring for AOR pitches (even when brands aggressively squeeze budgets and the financial gain isn’t necessarily fruitful) for the safety net of a long-term payroll backer.
Media agencies: Brace for impact
Are we on the verge of another Mediapalooza? Yes. Yes we are.
Disney wrapped what was likely the biggest media review of the decade in 2019. And as the dust settled, behemoth brands all over America were busy plotting media reviews.
At the risk of tipping off our good friends at other trades, three major marketers are poised to drop media RFPs over the coming months. Stay tuned.
The billing ecosystem will shift -- and it’s about time
The immense joy of winning that pitch your team spent countless days and nights slaving over is almost immediately crushed by confusion (sometimes months long) about how to price and deliver what has been promised.
Timesheets, well, are timesheets. And other avenues of billing time haven’t earned enough popularity to see it rolled out industry-wide. However, talk is increasingly moving toward a value proposition.
A handful of agencies agile enough to rewrite the pay model are throwing around ideas like asking clients to put a deposit down for creative then hand over an agreed percent of brand value which it directly attributes to the marketing drive months later. How that would be measured exactly is not entirely clear.
Another lightbulb moment is to slice and dice agency time into a number of packages -- the cheapest offering the least amount of client time, while the most expensive promises marketers 24/7 access to the shop (you know, like it is now but with a renewed respect for agency time).
Anything to shift power from marketer to agency and equalize the scales is progress.
Creativity will reign supreme
If we need to explain this one, you're in the wrong business.
Will the axe finally swing over account people?
Chatter of eliminating account people has long filled the boardrooms of agency C-suiters. But talk has never been more real than it is today.
Numerous agency folk say they’re seriously flirting with the idea as part of a structural overhaul they hope will bring creatives and strategists closer to the client and streamline services.
In principle, this could be majorly beneficial to marketers. But in reality, you’re asking staff to take on two roles in one -- dealing with the client is a full-time job. And how many creative mavericks do you know would handle the barrage of client requests with patience and understanding? The answer is, probably, not many.
Ad model experimentation will not slow down
That huge question mark is still hanging over the way in which adland’s ecosystem should operate.
Industry leaders sculpting the future landscape are experimenting with model after model in the race to drive efficiency and save costs as advertisers show no sign of silencing the "more bang for your buck" warrior cry.
Basically, marketers have to work out the Rubix Cube that is: outsourcing (the traditional agency model); insourcing (bringing agency resources to sit inside an advertiser); in-housing (taking skills inhouse, with talent hired by the advertiser) and; off-shoring (operating creative in cheaper locations abroad, such as India).
A lot of attention over the past year has surrounded the workings of in-house agencies. The rumblings that these teams are a "threat" to agencies is nothing more than an urban myth. Yes, brands are dabbling in the hire of internal marketing talent, but most are doing so in a way that compliments their agency partners.
Off-shoring, on the other hand, is quietly disrupting the ecosystem in more ways than you may have thought.
Agencies are saving brands a huge amount of money by housing digital, production, and data and analytics work overseas. Publicis’ Sapient has 3,000 people in India for coding, creative, production and analytics. Ogilvy also has a creative hub over there. Wunderman Thompson leans into its Denmark team for global work. And WPP’s Hogarth has multiple off-shore locations for content creation.
Campaign US recently reported how Nestlé has benefited immensely from Hogarth’s off-shoring. In 2018, Nestlé saw a 43 percent savings in digital content production for Nestle Infant Nutrition compared to the year before, and a whopping 80 percent savings in video production of Nestlé Recipes with culinary brands, said Loaiza.
The ultimate model for global marketers is a fusion of outsourcing, insourcing, off-shoring and a powerful in-house team. But most haven't figured that out yet.