Jeff Estok
Nov 12, 2014

The view from Madison Avenue: 2014

Jeff Estok of Navigare reports from the recent invitation-only AdForum Worldwide Summit in New York.

Jeff Estok
Jeff Estok

The AdForum Worldwide Summit in New York is a unique and highly focused event that Navigare has had the good fortune to attend for the last 12 years.

This year, 31 leading consultants from 10 countries around the globe descended on New York in October to meet and interact with agency network CEOs and management from all disciplines. In total, we saw presentations from nearly 30 agencies over the course of the week.

Last year, a sharper client mandate emerged—help us sell more stuff. Agencies were being held more and more accountable for that client-deliverable.

A year on, that mandate is even stronger. And the agencies that appear to be succeeding are those that have moved beyond merely building brands to helping transform and grow clients’ businesses. With technology altering clients’ business models, so too is it changing the agency focus. The new mantra: “We need to bring our clients transformative business insights.”

There were plenty of other great soundbites that summed up the trends we saw, and here are some of our favourites:

Digital isn’t a skillset, it’s a mindset: So marks the death of digital marketing as we used to know it. Today, it is about marketing in a digital world. And while it may appear to be a simple case of semantics, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s never been a tougher time to be a marketer, given the proliferation of channels, but the agencies that help clients ‘think digital’ before they ‘act digital’ will continue to become increasingly influential.  

Everything is shoppable. Every screen should be an opportunity for commerce: Following on from last year’s mandate to sell more stuff, clients are increasingly moving beyond ‘omnichannel’ to ‘commercial omnichannel’, realising that every opportunity to tell should be an opportunity to sell. This has never been more important than it is with today’s millennials, where among this group, 80 per cent find brands, whereas brands find a mere 20 per cent of them. And when they do find you, with their credit cards in hand, why miss the opportunity to convert?

We think of ourselves as an audience development firm: We saw a huge explosion in content, but the real winners are those that recognise that what really matters is the strategic use of it to build, and keep, large audiences. With a staggering 50 per cent of the $5 billion invested in YouTube generating 1,000 views or less, you can understand why clients are seeking greater accountability from their content providers. And we saw great strides in that area, with big data and real-time social monitoring now helping marketers and agencies pinpoint relevant content needs.

Moving at the speed of culture: There is no doubt that the days of the 14-week TV production cycle have gone the way of the horse-drawn carriage. More and more, agencies are delivering finished productions in as little a week (and occasionally in a day!), to capitalise on events of cultural significance. This is only made possible by clients upping the ante on collaboration and eliminating the barriers to approval; and becoming part of the creative process, rather than distancing themselves from it in an effort to play it safe.

The internet of things: As one agency put it: “Our role is to create products, services, and communications that help grow our Clients’ businesses.” This ‘maker culture’ is also not only providing growth for clients, but growth for agency revenues and profits as well. They are marshalling their resources to jointly own products and IP with their clients, truly making them partners in clients’ businesses.

While we would argue that agencies will never truly be ‘partners’ with their clients in the purest sense of the word, the distinguished leaders are those who are rising to the challenge of partnering business growth with them.

Which is striking a responsive chord with the client community.

Jeff Estok is managing partner of Navigare

 

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