The creative time paradox!

The purpose of this paper is to outline how an agency can protect their client relationship in the face of increasingly competitive approaches from new entrants from within and outside of the creative sector

By Alistair Scott, Consultant, Agency DNA


How to define your Value


They’re coming!

The IPA Commercial Conference for 2015’s panel discussion’s frequently referenced how senior marketeer’s within the client teams are being approached by consulting firms offering digital services.  The service provision that McKinsey or Deloitte are encroaching on, are in direct competition with most of your agencies clients.  In many areas of business this penetration would ordinarily prove too difficult for the consulting model to attack (assuming that they’ve not already marched through it), yet they’re here, open and vying for your business.

Their appearance can easily be placed upon changes to technology shifting the terms and operation of engagement.  Changes that the clients have been adapting to for many years and you are increasingly modifying your service provision for; such as social media and social engagement along with multiple channels of delivery.  Their ease of entry into this market however isn’t a result of external factors and is symptomatic of an industry that is too heavily reliant on headlines in press, awards and client turnover to prove or justify their existence. 

What do ‘you’ mean to ‘them’

To define a value proposition a good headline will obviously get your clients attentions, but you have to also look at all of the component parts of the whole. To deliver an advertising campaign you need the inputs such as studio, camera work, props and models and most important the creative energy.  Creative energy is usually gauged as being positive if you win an award or dramatic market share, but if you’re falling outside of the 5% (and 95% of us regularly do), then what do you communicate to your clients as being your value added proposition?

 To Bill or Not to Bill

Billable / unbillable time should be an absolute fundamental component of managing your most important business input; creative energy through allocation of time.   Most businesses will budget in billable / unbillable time for managing the creativity and job management process but very few match the billable time recorded v’s billable time recognised.  Most businesses have the capacity to, but it’s simply is not on the agenda in terms for job management or management information.

To understand why the accepted norm is to resist as much as possible, the time registration and recognition is probably based more as much on philosophical / psychological considerations as anything else.  But by persisting with this you are not helping to offset the commercial pressures that your clients are under to account and justify the decision process.  The argument goes… we are creatives, as creatives you shouldn’t commoditize our talent; but your business is failing to capture some essential business intelligence that you can use to say to your clients “look how important you are to us”.

Therein lies the paradox that will likely shape the agency model in the future.  If you do not want to acknowledge your talent as a commodity, then how do you fully define your contribution to a client?  With increased competition not only from lean tech agencies but also from the consultancies, agencies need as much ammunition as possible to defend their client relationship and market position.

Define your Outcomes of Success

With the new suites available for tracking social media, agencies should be developing sophisticated models to determine their effectiveness.   This should absolutely be defined in collaboration with your clients and attempt to gauge effectiveness through hard and soft KPI’s  and ROI’s, where the return is not necessarily an increase in turnover or cash benefit but a mix of various outcomes and improvements in sentiment and long term brand association.

Agency DNA has developed a model that can be used for tracking across social media, within a date range for exactly this type of social empirical measurement.  This reads sentiment across multiple languages so you’re able to track changes, negative or positive, to support your marketing campaigns.

The last 10 years has seen an acceleration of change across the marcom sector which has correlated with the advancement and take-up of technology.  The technological advancement is continuing unabated which will only lead to greater fragmentation of the channels along with greater competition from new entrants and incumbent competition.

The best way to protect yourselves and your clients is securing the relationship with shared understanding of all the work you’re providing but also realistically managing expectations and results.