The New Agency Social Order

January 1, 2009

Author: Aldo Cundari
Publication: Strategy Magazine

There’s sweeping change blowing through the industry, and we, as managers. must understand the impact it will have on our working environment and our operating process. I believe that only changing the facade while the foundations are crumbling will just create a more volatile and abrupt agency demise. This is why wholesale change is needed.

I suggest that we only keep what is necessary and build a completely new model of how we do what we do. This will require a great deal of vision and patience by the agency C-suite coupled with retraining our talent for a completely new workflow and a flatter, more collaborative open environment. And finally, insisting diverse thinkers work in partnership further upstream in the strategic and creative process.

Cundari has started to make the changes to take advantage of this “new agency social order.” This encompasses giving greater prominence to the individuals who, frankly, were not even on most agencies’ radar a few years back (chief technology officers. human interface architects and interactive requirements planners).

I believe that the creative directors’ hero status within agencies will and has already, begun to shift to a new breed of talent emerging from the technology backroom. These individuals are smart, strategic, and because they are young they demand that the barriers of working in silo be torn down. The real gems of our industry are the creative directors that get both sides and thrive across all disciplines. Agencies must begin to deliver on technology. In fact, it should be the very foundation of what they do. Consumers have already moved from the old narrative model to one of dialogue and we need o catch up.

Since consumers hold all the power in terms of how and when they will start that dialogue, agencies have to become more innovative when developing strategies or reaching them. The foundation should be rooted in technology. When technology is made the hub of what we do, it allows even greater flexibility and creativity when developing a universal communication thread across a fragmented landscape. It will also allow agencies to harness the strength of experiential (human emotional capital) by capturing a two-way dialogue with the masses, yet individualizing those touch points.

For example, imagine in the near future that an automaker communicates with consumers through multiple channels, and has the systems to track those individuals, then customize an experience in real time as they walk into a dealership-and complete profiles that have been analyzed and served up as they walk in the door or search online.

Or consider the wonderful new technology that manufacturers have started to tag all products with: RFID, for automated real-time tracking of perpetual inventory (search “Patrick Dixon for Siemens” on You Tube). As part of our information gathering it will be possible to scan and link these tags to individual profiles. When a consumer enters a retail location, sensors will scan for RFIDs and their mobile number then link the two. Marketing applications will identify who they are. their past purchases, what’s in their basket, and serve up tailored promotional offers (in real time) to their mobile.

Scary, right? No, this is an opportunity. This still requires all the traditional tactics to build awareness and engage the consumer. but when linked to RFID and customer historical data in real time, it’s very powerful. Agencies will not become irrelevant Advertisers will still require agencies to develop strategies and creative. But technology is the enabler-the conduit to being relevant with consumers. Technology has started the new creative revolution.


Management: See the new agency social model as the heart of what you should embrace.

People: Hire them young, and hire them smart. but make sure that you have the training and collaborative approach required to retain them.

Process: Start with a clean sheet and map out how you would restructure your organization for dialogue, versus narrative communication-through emerging (hell, they’ve arrived) alternative channels.

Creative: Change how you manage the creative process. The Big Idea people must be versed and comfortable in every discipline.

Embrace digital trailblazers: Make room for them; they are now an essential part of what we do.

Foster an environment of innovators: In a rapid sea of change, innovators are your only safeguard against irrelevance. Build a collaborative structure so that only the best work makes it to the client’s table and ultimately to the consumer’s heart.