Updated: Nov 5, 2018
Tunji Adeyinka GMD of the Republicom Group is Editor at Large at ExperientialNG. In this inaugural piece fresh from the recently concluded Advertising Week on thought leadership he covers the critical issues facing the practice of experience and offers a road map to the future
Advertising Week is a premium event/conference for Marketing, Brand, Advertising and Technology professionals. From the very first event in New York fifteen years ago, the platform is now in Europe (London), Latin America (Mexico City), Asia (Tokyo), Asia Pacific (Sydney) and in 2019 the Africa version will be launched in South Africa. At the New York event in October 2018, one of the major highlights was the Walt Disney Company Stage which was dedicated to topics under the Experience Economy Theme.
“we are in an era of accountability and focus. Measurement has become a key lever in client engagement but smart agencies are moving one step further by looking at attribution. ”
Over the four days, the discussions around Experiential Marketing and indeed around Marketing broadly were consistently disruptive and extremely thought-provoking.
Shifting Sands: The Agency’s Current Reality
There are several factors causing a shift in the Experiential space and these factors are not just limited to Experiential but they also impact across the marketing space. One of the most important factors is the extreme pressure on clients and companies. Several companies are facing challenges from smaller competitors occasioning complete business model changes. Leaner competitors without the weight of legacy structures are able to move faster to market, introduce innovation and price appropriately. As these pressures mount on the clients, the businesses that serve them must experience some of these challenges as well. The clients are responding with actions like stronger procurement units, stricter trade terms, in-sourcing services, etc.
Times are changing fast and so must marketing agencies.
First, the agency must not only be skilled at doing, it must also be skilled in understanding why it is doing. The agency must develop an innate skill to keep asking why. In an age where some clients do not go through the rigour of linking activities to strategic pillars, the tendency for re-works, unnecessary iterations and repeated waste is inevitable. The agency must understand the market and the business of the client enough to ask critical questions. To be considered as a strategic partner, agency’s contribution to the client’s business must be measurable and distinct.
Second, the advancement in technology and specifically the penetration of mobile devices provide a unique opportunity for experiential agencies. It means the immersion and amplification opportunities are now more personal and also far-reaching. In this new age of micro-targeting, new opportunities for engagement now exist. These solutions provide new ways of engaging with consumers and creating impactful moments. Solutions spanning the length and breadth of augmented reality, location-based services, artificial intelligence all provide fresh opportunities for agencies. Agencies must embrace, engage and understand these changes and take advantage of them. Innovation is a key pillar in consumer engagement especially because of the myriad of activities competing for attention.
Third, we are in an era of accountability and focus. Measurement has become a key lever in client engagement but smart agencies are moving one step further by looking at attribution. Can we link this engagement to sales or awareness or sampling/trial. The modern report does not only state what happened, it also states what was achieved. To do this effectively, agency and client must have an agreed picture of success from the beginning. Agencies that provide a framework for measurement on every engagement will win in this era of shifting sands.
In conclusion, there are certain issues which are more existential rather than competitive issues, these are broad industry issues. First is the issue of trade terms, if the kind of trade terms advanced in this market were to continue, it will spell doom for the future of the industry. Clients are requesting more from agencies and at the same time they are squeezing them on trade terms. The reality is that something has to give. The late Steve Covey advances that every organisation must maintain a P/PC Balance, that is the balance between the golden egg (Production) and the health and welfare of the goose (Production Capability). This is the very essence of long-term effectiveness and it ensures that short term and long-term advancements are balanced. If the right balance is not struck, it could spell disaster, in this case, for the entire industry.
Attracting young and first-rate talents into the industry is also a very important existential issue. The trade can only be as strong as the talents. The quality of thinking and rate of innovation can only be raised if the level of talent is raised.
Finally, partnerships are going to be important in the future of the industry. In this case, the partnerships are not restricted to players within the industry but also to players in allied industries.
As the ground shifts, agencies who are open and prepared for the disruptive age will survive through the shifting sands. Simply said, things are not the way they used to be.