Team working together in an office conference room
Team working together in an office conference room
Photo by Mario Gogh on Unsplash

The team arrived from New York: 7 individuals, bags in hand, a cross-section of leadership representing the core functional capabilities of the agency.

Ariel view of Ogilvy headquarters — The Chocolate Factory in NYC.
Ariel view of Ogilvy headquarters — The Chocolate Factory in NYC.
Photo by Ogilvy

Dispatched from the venerable Chocolate Factory in NYC, this select group of individuals was specifically “dispatched” from the executive floor with a mission to address a “rogue” team attempting to implement a different model. Rogue within this context represented “non-compliant” with existing methodologies and processes.

Let’s provide context. The foundation of traditional advertising agency leadership hasn’t changed much from the Mad Men “esque” days of the 60s. The majority of individuals within the C-Suite today came from advertising services, (e.g. Account Management, Media Buying, Planning, etc.). This heritage of “big” creative ideas and large media buys has often outweighed other functional capabilities within the industry as the highly visible and most valued aspect of the business. Having noted this, the advent of the “roll-up” of non-traditional agencies to account for new capabilities such as digital (e.g. website and app development, social, content, programmatic, data, AI, AR, VR, etc.) …


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Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

Among the synonyms for fake you’ll find: artificial, cheat, fraudulent, false, charlatan, feign, counterfeit, phony, pretend and deception. If you take the time to pull back the covers off brand activism, you’ll find what is essentially the definition of fake. Oh yes, I’ll be the first to admit that there are “purpose built” brands that are activist / causal and that they live up to their promise. Among these brands you’ll find REI, The North Face, Bombas, Tom’s, Ben and Jerry’s, etc. …


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Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Agencies and management consultancies were the “force” of change in the late 90’s through the early ‘00’s, representing the “source” of innovation and the next generation of knowledge. Companies sought out organizations that could help reimagine business models, build new channels, specifically digital, implement complex technologies and drive organizational change. From start-up’s to the largest corporations, engaging the capabilities and experience of companies such as MarchFIRST, iXL, Scient, Lante, Organic, Agency.com, Razorfish, Sapient, etc., where a new breed of talent and capability resided, was viewed as being tantamount to success. …


Let’s be honest— the world of digital and advertising “agencies” is replete with inconsistency.

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The adage, “If you try to be all things to all people…,” is appropriately applicable to the world of advertising and digital agencies.

Having spent my entire career solving complex client challenges, the one I’ve been most frustrated with and unable to solve for exists within the industry that I’ve worked within for the past 2+ decades. The challenge itself is simple; yet, the desire / willingness to solve for it is an enormous impediment.

Let’s dig in a bit. There’s a historical context that frames this challenge. First, there are no “standards” for what defines an advertising or digital agency. Unlike other industries where there are certifications, standards, guidelines, etc., neither of these industries are governed. With this in mind, the barrier to entry is a laptop, software, Internet connection and a human being. Those are literally the only barriers. Items such as errors and omission (E&O) insurance aren’t necessary, at least unless a client requires it. Individuals leave agencies valued at $B’s and start their own competing directly within days. It’s that simple. So, the first issue regarding “standards” or lack thereof is driven by the mere fact that there are such limited barriers to entry. The concept of “to each his own” applies in this situation. Each “agency” has its own approach, capabilities, experience and philosophy. The term “full service,” which will get discussed later, is the clarion call of the issue of lack of consistency. …


It’s time for change. Breaking what’s broken.

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The agency and management consulting industries spend enormous amounts of energy responding to RFPs. So, how did we get here? It’s actually quite simple. It’s a flawed approach based on the premise that “free” thinking will be provided by companies with the “hope” that they will be selected and ultimately, awarded a contract. Let’s openly discuss the dirty little secrets of the RFP process. This will get interesting.

The RFP — Behind the Scenes

With 2 decades of experience, I can speak with authority on the challenges with RFPs. First, most RFPs are based on an internal perspective of a problem or opportunity that can’t be solved internally. Here’s the first issue. If the team that’s writing the scope of the RFP has already defined the problem or the opportunity space, what room is there for an agency or management consultancy to address a root cause analysis and provide recommendations for a solution? Over the years, I’ve worked on RFP responses where we had to essentially “guess” at the issue based on such limited insight or, in fact, rewrite the RFP based on prior category experience and understanding of the competitive landscape and customer needs through research and outcomes. …


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Photo by Pawel Janiak on Unsplash

The reality is quite simple. Your behavior is your personal currency — that is, unless you’re willing to pay.

Our own mental models of experience and perception of value exchange are complex. The Social Dilemma served as an example of the “voice” of the concerned as it relates to privacy and manipulation of perspectives, including the reinforcement of biases. For those of us with decades of experience in the industry, we’ve known, and in many instances used the algorithms and data for the benefit of our clients, while recognizing the issues with data privacy.

Here’s the reality. Nothing is free. We’re the product. Our stories, the narrative of our lives, is effectively the monetization engine for platforms such as @Google, @Facebook, @Instagram, @Snap, @TikTok, @Pinterest, etc. It’s this “free” service that requires our content in order to align our behaviors, our desires and our own “idiosyncracies” to the advertising model that underpins the revenue model of these companies. The chorus of concerns over privacy and manipulation by “Big Tech” are, in essence, a hollow argument when we take into consideration the perspectives of the users of the platforms. The reality is straight forward, yet the clarion call to action versus the willingness to change behavior are juxtaposed. …


Clearly, you’re doing something wrong.

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I wish I could say “This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead or actual events is purely coincidental,” but unfortunately, this is based on actual experiences within the four walls of corporate America. Let’s start, shall we?

Here’s the outline, for those of you that have to know what’s coming next.

  • Seriously, it’s not the 70's
  • Dorothy — “There’s no place like home.”
  • Your brand is my brand
  • It only takes a spark

Seriously, it’s not the ‘70's.

I received an email outlining a challenge within a highly recognized U.S. headquartered conglomerate. The company is a behemoth dating back to the 1920’s. Let’s start there. Some companies reimagine and reinvent themselves on a perpetual cycle, while others become the victim of their own circumstances. With PE and VC backed companies gaining market share through exponential expenditure, legacy publicly traded and privately held companies are constrained by their funding sources. In part, this is a contributing factor to their cultural challenges. In this particular instance, I’m talking about a $13B+ engineering focused company with products that are among the most sophisticated in aviation, industrial and military applications. …


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Before this piece was even written, I received a lot of incredibly positive feedback on the published outline. So, I’ll begin by thanking those who’ve contributed valuable insights that have guided what I hope is impactful to you as you assess your personal career objectives.

Let’s start with the fact that your career is the equivalent of a high school popularity contest. The only difference is your career success is defined by your title and the company brand you work for… that is unless you choose to build your personal brand.

A summary of the article is included below.

1. Focus on being exceptionally…


What it takes to be in the 1%.

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Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash

If you’re not aware of all of the talk about the “1%”, you’ve most likely been sequestered this year. Wait, there’s a pandemic, so there’s a chance you might have missed it. Actually, the 1% I’m referencing here is the exclusive group of marketers that represent the most effective, data driven, performance focused within the industry. Let’s stop here for a moment and take a step back. The AMA defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large” — Approved 2017¹. …


Lessons from being on the line conducting due diligence

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Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

If I’ve learned one thing in my career, it’s that there’s an enormous difference between perception and reality. In the case of an acquisition, the complexity and dynamics are exponential. If you’d like to understand what it’s like representing the “buy-side,” let me take you on what’s hopefully an interesting journey.

The difference between the pursuer and the pursued.

With 20+ years of agency experience leading strategy practices, solving complex client challenges and serving in the C-Suite within agencies and management consultancies, being on the acquisition due diligence side is a different beast. …

About

Bob Morris

Founder, Bravery Group; Co-Founder, Trade (Acquired by ICF Next), #Strategy, #digitaltransformation #CX, #designthinking

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