The Agency Of The Future: Better Relationships, Outside-The-Box Hiring and Workspace Re-orgs

adamedelmanData-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is by Adam Edelman, founder and CEO at IMM.

The fast pace of change in the digital advertising industry is alternately exciting and enervating.

Agencies today must be tech-savvy innovators to stay ahead of the pack, able to rack up YouTube views, design and build digital products such as apps and mine data not just to advise clients on where to buy media, but also advise on far bigger issues, including what to sell next and where.

Agencies must constantly predict business needs six, eight or 12 months down the road and invest smartly for the future. With brands’ needs changing, agencies’ internal organizations are changing, too.

All this has me asking a lot of questions: What does the agency of the future look like? How can we adjust our hiring and organizational structure to be successful?

Tech + Data Confluence Drives Relationship Building

With so much data at their fingertips, marketers are making bold moves to mine it. Many also want to keep their data in-house. EHarmony, for example, built its own campaign attribution system to reduce its marketing outlay. Some marketers, including PepsiCo and Campbell’s Soup, have hired former agency and ad tech execs.

A recognition of this trend led Live Nation’s Ticketmaster division and other tech-savvy, data-focused companies to create new business units, such as Blue, a boutique marketing firm that uses real-time analytics marketing tools to help clients reach potential consumers.

The upshot for agencies? Technology investment is crucial, followed by educating clients. Agencies have to prove to brands that the sharing of data is worth their effort. Agencies must demonstrate their strengths to gain trust, whether it’s the ability to mine data or develop new creative approaches using real-time analytics.

A Must: Hiring From Other Industries And Unusual Disciplines

Today’s complex interplay between media and technology is forcing agencies to innovate in how they recruit and take more risks in how they hire. That may mean hiring “Internet kids” from Reddit and Instagram, as Deutsch LA has done, or taking a page from 72U, the creative residency program developed by 72 and Sunny that immerses non-industry hires in creative problem-solving.

Yes, recruiting outside the usual talent pipeline is time-consuming and difficult – particularly at higher levels – but there is a payoff: Outsiders can have a positive, transformational effect on agency culture and client relationships.

For an example of an area where outside-the-agency thinking is in high demand, we already see the need to make room for TV media culture in the digital agency world as programmatic TV buying starts making inroads.

The New Normal: Internal Re-orgs

The new age of advertising is all about content, conversation and engagement – and it’s forcing agencies to shuffle desks and rethink departmental structures on an ongoing basis.

While open-plan architecture – a radical notion when first broached in the 1950s and largely the norm in agencies today – provides a ready framework for agencies to organize and reorganize, the real driver of today’s changing workspaces is knowledge sharing, easy conversation and the destruction of departmental silos.

Flexible workspaces and features such as the staircase at Wieden & Kennedy NYC, which converts to an informal meeting space, not only make economic sense, but also encourage cross-pollination of ideas and easier intradepartmental conversation. From a manager’s perspective, a workspace that can reconfigure easily makes sense as some disciplines evolve or are merged into other areas.

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1 Comment

  1. Toni Mehler

    You are so right about the marriage between interdisciplinary sensitivity and organizational/architectural structure. Enjoyed your column.


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