Transformation: easy to talk about, harder to do

How confident are you in your organization's ability to navigate into the future?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at the 4A’s first Agency Transformation Roundtable held in Philadelphia.

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, no, we’re not going to talk about this again, are we? Not another session/panel/conference/presentation about getting digital, changing processes, reinventing our business. Can’t we just get back to telling stories and making cool shit?”

If only it were that easy. Consider this from Rishad Tobaccowala, someone most people think knows what he’s talking about. Rishad shared the fact that in every conversation he has with senior clients around the world, they all express the same three concerns.

First, they’re worried about making the numbers. Second, they don’t believe their current partners (no matter who they may be) are equipped to lead them into the future. A big part of this is because most agencies have no idea how to work in the new collaborative manner necessary in world where everything is converged. Instead they try to do it all themselves. (Rishad adds that any agency claiming they can do it all themselves if full of shit and their clients know it.) And third, most senior management at clients don’t even believe their own organizations are ready for the future. It appears that people, processes and incentive systems remain rooted in the past.

Now do we need to transform? And help our clients do the same?

Rishad Tobaccowala, chief innovation officer for Publicis

The 4As, which started the conversation at its big annual event in San Francisco, plans to take the roundtable event to a number of markets over the next year, convinced that the havoc being wreaked by the digitization of everything calls for everyone – agencies and clients alike – to restructure what we make and how we make it as we morph from crafting messages that reach to building experiences that engage.

Kudos to them and to everyone willing to participate. Sure talk is cheap, but if the right people are talking and others are actually listening and subsequently acting, perhaps the predictions of the industry’s demise will prove to be greatly exaggerated.

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this is so nice that Transformation: easy to talk about, harder to do and i am so happy that you share this to all....


The problem, however, is generally one of the client's own creation: they hire a group of agencies under the rubric of getting "best in breed" help in every area and then leave the agencies to fight it out for who gets to do what and how much money they're getting. (Marketing, unfortunately, is not easily divided into neat, pre-defined categories where everyone has an obvious role.)

A solution I've proposed in the past is to create the role of "Marketing General Contractor" on the client side. That person (or department) would be in charge of parsing out all the different assignments, making sure there was no overlap and making sure that there was one master plan that everyone was sticking to.

It's a lot like hiring a GC to oversee home construction: without one, the plumber would suggest 12 bathrooms of gold-plated pipes, the carpenter would want imported teak walls and the mason would insist on Italian marble to go over the teak...

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Isn't this a question that has been asked since maybe the 30's? I don't say that disparagingly Edward. I meant that it seems every year since the 30's it could probably been rationally asked. And why are there conglomerates if they can't manage a complete clients needs across all media platforms if they have all the disciplines across their agency network. I come from Aerospace and Automotive where a lead contractor might have 50-100 subcontractors of different tiers. Designing, Building, and Testing an ICBM that can take out a missile coming in at 14000mph has to be harder than handling all of Coke's Advertising/Marketing needs? Maybe not?

I wrote this on Susan @satisfeye 's recent blog post on a different topic but it's really fitting here and comes to the core of the issue.
There is only one thing guaranteed in life and that is impermanence - Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Since there is always going to be change why not manage the process vs the content. Can't a blue print for change be mapped out using logical reason steps/strategic planning to facilitate and encourage it? So instead or oganizational leaps and jolts its a steady up hill?