Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Digital agencies created 10 years ago had a very specific purpose – they were there to take clients through the mystery that was digital, help them to digitise their businesses, learn about social media and create websites that would reflect the digital age. The model was fit for purpose then – but it is certainly not for now, or for the next 10 years.

This is the era of focus, says Jay Thompson, co-founder of brand-new data-driven agency Hoorah. “Clients are becoming tired of big groups and all the slowness and red tape that come with them,” he says. He uses a medical example to illustrate this: “While there is a time and a place for a GP, there also comes a time when you may require the services of a neurosurgeon.” Thompson adds agencies now need to develop “deep” skills, as opposed to “wide” ones.

Key to this idea – and the very foundation on which Hoorah is built – is that data is central to everything. It should, therefore, inform all content.

In the old days of ad land, it was all about “ideas”. If you could execute and deliver on the big idea, your agency would be in the lead. The typical process was that a client outlined a problem, the agency subsequently came up with a big idea, it was then implemented and from there, data was produced, says Thompson.

The big take-out

A data-driven approach is the way forward and silos must be left behind.

However, there is another way to do this, he says. “We already have data, so let’s start with that – using an interesting insight to produce something new, such as a business opportunity. Because a data-driven insight is something a customer is trying to tell you. It’s really the same process, but in reverse.”

Thompson believes that what agencies today need is more focus, and more focus means more power. He maintains that data powers creativity and the creative idea itself. It also removes both ego and subjectivity. “Data doesn’t lie, because it’s objective.”

Hand in hand with this data-driven approach is the need to leave silos behind. The invisible walls don’t exist in reality; they’re merely constructs in people’s heads, says Thompson. He explains that everything in the industry – from the awards ceremonies to the way big agency groups are set up, feeds this siloed way of operating. “There is the intent for everyone to work together, but unfortunately not the delivery [of this], and clients are starting to kick back. It doesn’t mean that we no longer need big agencies, but for the next 10 years in the industry at least, we need a data-driven approach.”

Finding new problems to solve and unlocking new opportunities that clients haven’t seen before is the way the industry is headed, he believes. “We’re looking at different scenarios, such as short-form content, which is more appropriate for today’s audiences – such as short, punchy videos that are 10 to 20 seconds long. Clients can make the same investment but spend it differently to enable better outcomes,” concludes Thompson.