It’s been said countless times, “The old model of advertising is dead.” Big agencies with cumbersome red tape and massive overhead simply cannot accomplish what brands are demanding. CMOs need proactive solutions, breakthrough creative, innovative media, omnichannel planning, data-driven consumer insights and more. Also, they don’t have a budget, but if the agency would be willing to do it as a test, they can probably find money for the next project…so it should all shake out in the end. And if you could send all that over by EOD it would be greatly appreciated.
So that’s the stated problem to solve. Clients need more, quicker and cheaper. It’s an old problem. I can guarantee Volney Palmer himself struggled with it when he started the first U.S. advertising agency in 1842. He likely went to his grave struggling to find a more efficient way to set type, trim the costs of telegraphing and begging the local paper to do a new print run because his client just changed the offer. Ahhh, the good old days.
Volney may be dead, but his problem is alive and well. Every old-school agency and plenty of young startups are working on it. There is no lack of innovation and change. There’s an agency that’s essentially a walk-up genius bar for all of your advertising needs on-demand. There’s a massive consultancy scooping up a white-hot creative shop. There’s an investment firm playing the role of a strategic creative agency. And there’s always the on-again, off-again cycle of in-housing with brands trying to wrangle back control of various advertising functions only to discover they didn’t solve the problem they just transferred ownership. To be fair, they’re all valiant attempts and they each solve a few different challenges, but ignore others.
To look at it another way, all of these adaptations on the agency model seem to be treating the symptoms rather than the root cause of the problems. What’s needed is a fresh look at the motivations of everyone involved – the clients, the agency, the various vendors and partners and, most importantly, all of the actual humans who are making things happen. What are their needs and wants? Their strengths and weaknesses? Their hopes and dreams?
Let’s break it down.
Clients and Brands
Better, quicker, cheaper are symptoms. What they truly want/need is pretty simple. They want/need their company to be successful TODAY and setup for success tomorrow. It’s why they say things like, “If we try this, and it works, we can find more money to support it.” Their biggest fear is failure. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re risk-averse, but they want/need assurances. That’s why “best practices” and “data-driven thinking” are how ideas are shored up. The fact is, CMOs do not think the current status quo is working. According to a recent survey there is a massive gap between what CMOs believe is important to their future success and how well they perceive they (and their agencies) are delivering on them today.
On a personal level, agencies have to remember that clients are also people! They want/need to grow in their careers, go home each day with a sense of accomplishment, and make their parents proud! They want/need to go to cocktail parties and PTA meetings and have interesting things to talk about. They want/need partners who they trust to put their priorities first.
Advertising Agencies Big & Small
Just like our clients, agencies are companies, too. Profitability and success today and tomorrow are naturally motivations. But as an agency, the PEOPLE are the product. The focus is to attract and retain smart, hardworking, creative people. Agency life isn’t a 9-5 job, and for every idea that makes it into the world, hundreds of equally good but “not right” ideas die an ignoble death. It’s a tough industry that chews people up. Those that succeed are intrinsically motivated. They do it because they love it. They love using a mix of art and science to hit the sweet spot between shaping culture and driving commerce.
What agencies want/need from clients is the same level of trust clients want/need. That trust gives agency staff space and confidence to think of solutions that have real impact. With that trust, they can feel empowered to do their due diligence of data analysis and best practices assessment and say to the client “We cannot guarantee that this idea will do X, but based on our knowledge, experience and, frankly, gut instinct, we believe this is the right thing to do.”
Vendors & Partners
These folks do whatever it is they do better than anyone else. They’re specialized experts. They could be a technology platform, a production house or even a freelancer or consultant. They want/need the opportunity to do that thing they do for brands and agencies, and do it well. They want/need to be setup for success by the other players and to get the credit they deserve. For them, a success on one project today leads to more opportunities tomorrow. It comes down to trust here as well. The agency has to trust them to put some aspect of their client’s business in their hands. Without that trust, and the shared priority of helping the client be successful, nobody wins.
The Citrus Model
At Citrus, we’ve built our agency around a core team of experts who can oversee our clients’ advertising needs from top to bottom. This always-on team is then supported by a deep bench of experienced staff that allows us to utilize the right people on the right projects at the right time. But the real magic of our model is that it is designed to promote trust and to benefit everyone.
For clients, it means there is no bloated staffing plan, no “big agency” overhead to drive up costs, fully integrated thinking with a single point of contact, customized strategies and approaches and access to on-demand, top-tier talent.
For core staff, we offer a strong culture that consistently empowers, challenges and rewards each individual, a chance to focus on great work for happy clients, and access to specialized partners to help turn great into amazing.
And when it comes to vendors and partners we believe in doing a lot of legwork up front to ensure we only engage with the best of the best. More times than not, these are folks we’ve worked with before and we know they share in our belief that promises made are promises kept. And we also know they love what they do, as much as we love doing what we do.
If this model intrigues you, you might intrigue us.
Reach out and we’d be happy to discuss more.