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Picture: 123RF/zoomzoom
Picture: 123RF/zoomzoom

Perhaps the overarching lesson from the 20th annual AdForum Worldwide Summit held earlier this year in New York is that the advertising agency as we know it has morphed into the a brand-experience company, in a process that has grown beyond flighting ads and holding thumbs to providing not just a digital component, but a whole experience.

Ad agencies have rapidly had to tool up and become more than ad campaign generators. Importantly, an agency with “the big idea” is more vital than ever before – but must now create a business experience, a transformation experience and a whole new way of engaging consumers.

This seismic shift beyond traditional agency norms was my most significant takeout from the AdForum summit. It also raises the potential argument about what we need to overcome in SA, and the belief that marketers here are not ready and don’t have the budgets required to embrace the full brand experience.

It’s not about huge budgets, though. It’s about agencies being able to fulfil what’s required to offer the full brand experience and be responsible for every part of a campaign’s journey. For agencies to succeed now, they must be prepared to disrupt the status quo and expunge “how we’ve always done it”.

Today’s marketers are looking beyond one-dimensional organisations to get the multidimensional campaign results that are possible. To stay relevant, agencies now have little choice but to become – or hire – experts to deliver the full brand experience.

The notion that marketers may be cautious is not incorrect, nor is it unexpected in a rapidly changing landscape. Agencies can engage them by communicating the current options and exciting possibilities. Our experience at the Agency Search & Selection Company  is that proactive clients and agencies are collaborating continuously to stay ahead of the curve.

We are, however, still seeing agencies that may be reticent to propel their clients or show them what’s possible, leaving the door open for a confident, evolved agency to bring the big idea and the strategy to a client and win the clients over.

The transformation of our industries, along with digital marketing and the educational drive this requires, will allow those agencies that are able to partner with a marketer and tackle a whole new set of challenges together to rise to the top.

Marketers will continue to be attracted to agencies that are able to look into the future and bring fresh thinking to brands able to deliver a full experience.

Johanna McDowell is the CEO of the Independent Agency Search & Selection Company (IAS) and Scopen partner.

The big take-out:

The advertising agency as we know it has morphed into a full brand-experience company, in a process that has grown beyond flighting ads and holding thumbs to providing not just a digital component, but a whole experience.

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