AdAge Small Agency Conference: A love story (of sorts)

By Casey Floyd, Vice President of Integrated Marketing

I’m always willing to lend an empathetic ear and take in any insight from our peers that might help the agency progress. When I noticed that AdAge was hosting a Small Agency Conference in Nashville, I was all in. The agenda consisted of creative showcases on widely known campaigns, panel discussions on agencies launching new business ventures and diversity in the industry, interviews with well-known creatives and record label tycoons and how they overcame the small business challenges, plus a special spotlight on Wild Turkey and the ad campaign that has attracted celebrities.

Above all, the highlight for me was a presentation called “Let’s Stay Together: Marriage Counseling for Agencies and Clients.” Certainly, the dynamics of agency and client relationships have changed over the years. Many companies have restructured their partnerships with agencies. Free agency, consultancy, holding company, and custom agency dynamics have altered the traditional paradigm, but it’s not a bad thing. Companies are evolving and their needs are evolving. Agencies are naturally following suit to meet these expectations. And agencies are now looking in the mirror and asking themselves, “Should we be everything for everyone, or should we be something unique for someone special?” I believe those needs from the client side are starting to shape their agency evaluations.

Where the rub lies on the agency side is lack of true partnership with their clients. After winning at the Cannes festival, Burger King CMO Alex Schwan recently stated “Agencies are not vending machines. You cannot throw a few dollars in and expect good creative to come out.” Alex further expanded on his statement in an AdAge article on the value of partnership with agencies. He believes that many companies are not allowing for their agencies to be privy to their complete strategic plan. This robs the agencies of the ability to grasp the large picture, thus hindering their creative and output. He referred to the partnership mindset as “one team.” These sentiments were shared among the agencies in attendance at the conference.

I do believe there is work to do on both sides as the dynamics change. Agencies need to find their place in the client’s business and truly become invested. In turn, companies need to trust their agency enough to move toward that “one team” mentality. This would create a marriage of equal parts striving to succeed. Group hug?

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