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The Changing Face of Agencies | Review 

An overview of our recent event at Cannes

For the second year in a row we partnered with the IAA for an informal panel discussion at Cannes at the IAA Cabana. This year we discussed “The Changing Face of Agencies”, a topic with special relevance as we’re entering especially turbulent and transformative times that are set to completely change the agency landscape.

On the panel we had; Ben Bilboul, Group CEO, Karmarama, Tristan Rice, Partner, SI Partners, Sasan Saeidi, Group Managing Director, FP7 McCann-UAE, Joydeep Bhattacharya, Managing Director, Accenture Interactive and Fjord Regional Lead with our MD Simon Samuel hosting the discussion.

Some of the key questions answered and observations were:

Who’s entering the market now and why?

There was unanimous agreement that the agency landscape has changed hugely in the last decade. Ten years ago there were a smaller number of credible buyers, but the number of buyers in the space has increased tenfold in the last few years. New Marcomms buyers from Asia, America and Europe are competing with the established order, while new competitors are coming from outside the traditional communications space. This has created a huge amount of interest in what are actually relatively small deals.

We’re also in a discovery phase as we work out how larger process driven businesses interact with creative businesses in a way that’s meaningful for them and their clients – companies are now exploring how to scale creativity.

Why did Karmarama and Accenture Interactive feel they were the right partners?

Increasingly, Kamarama found the better CMO’s were stepping into performance marketing and customer experience. Ultimately they found their complimentary skillsets with both able to add to the others offerings, allowing them to become strategic partners to their clients. Both companies knew what mattered fundamentally to customers was the experience and their acquisition allowed them to create incredibly strong data & tech driven offerings that were infused with creativity, all the way up to board level.

The data and tech that increasingly sits at the heart of agencies is the glue that allows them to work together – a pure creative and management consultancy would not work so well together, but there is now a natural tether that allows them to work together. The cultural fabric and the set of joint clients also showed they could meld seamlessly.

How do you meld the cultures of consultancy and creativity?

When Karmarama was acquired it was run a separate culture, for obvious reasons. You can’t mix data, analytical, developers and creative professionals together in the same environments and expect the best results. Senior teams may consist of mixed discipline teams, but it’s essential to retain creative environments to retain creative talent.

In the short to medium term how are agencies going to drive their revenue?

Everyone’s talking about data and tech but what people are still interested in are the creative ideas. Agencies shouldn’t be using data for the sake of data, but instead using it to drive an idea. The future lies in the merging of creativity, data & tech instead of focusing on a single element. Performance marketing budgets are also increasing, while all businesses are focused on digital transformation and CMO’s are getting involved in these discussions to turn them into positive customer experiences.

CMO’s and CDO’s are increasingly under pressure to take accountability for results, so they lead with creativity while getting the commercial model right. This has lead to value based deals which provide a commercial model based on end-to-end results.

What’s going to have a real impact on the industry?

AI, or more realistically the interplay between humans and bots is going to change the whole messaging spectrum while newer channels will make conversational customer experiences a big topic. Another key question is if messages are controlled by an interface, what effect will creativity then have on it? This has yet to be answered.

Can creativity be completely automated?

Creativity will one day be automated, but we’re not there yet. Instead we need to create environments that will allow creative & tech focused talent to work together to create an automated creative experience. Mushing people together works less well as talented people like to work with other talented people within their field. We need to hire talent coming from integrated backgrounds and partnering them with talented tech people, not for the sake of the tech but so it can support the creative offering.

You can view the video highlights of the event here.