Just follow the yellow-brick road


As a kid, one of the first films that had a profound impact on me was The Wizard of Oz. The scene when Dorothy is transported to the Land of Oz and Technicolor explodes onto the screen is something that has always stayed with me. The transition the film makes from the old sepia-toned world to a new colourful one filled with unbridled potential got me thinking about our own industry.

We’ve grown up with, lived in, and become accustomed to Kansas. For longer than anybody cares to remember – as media professionals – we easily knew how, when and where to reach consumers, and we took clients on that journey with us. We used the same old principles with slightly different executional nuances, and for the longest time it worked very well. However, we do not live in this world anymore; the tornado has hit and we are now operating in the new world order: Oz. In order to make it in Oz, we need three core traits: brains, courage, and heart.

Much like the Scarecrow, agencies and the media have been heavily investing in tools to give them the brains needed in an increasingly sophisticated (and competitive) industry. Every major agency now has its own internal trading desk and programmatic buying will only become more and more prevalent. I for one cannot wait until media becomes more automated as it will give us the opportunity to truly immerse ourselves within our clients’ business. For too long we have been bound by procurement where more often than not numbers dictate our behaviour as opposed to ideas and creativity. The commoditisation of our industry is suffocating our desire to act as consultants. In Kansas, delivering a great value stretch, or getting that CPM down may have saved Toto from the wicked Miss Gulch, but we do not operate in that world anymore. In Oz, we are going to add value to our clients by sharing in their triumphs and successes, but more importantly, sharing in their challenges, frustrations and opportunities. It’s up to us to educate clients and have them see us as not a “media agency” or even an “agency partner” but a business partner because at the end of the day it is going to be our brains that will help them achieve their goals.

Leading on from this point, courage is another vital characteristic but unlike the Cowardly Lion, we don’t need a medal; we just need the confidence in ourselves and our abilities to do what’s right. It doesn’t even have to involve a brief that asks for an “out of the box” idea; it can literally be applied to any task that presents itself. Albert Einstein once defined insanity as: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” but many of us fall into this trap every day. Whether it’s a client that just wants to do the same thing they did last year, or a report that needs to be populated with monthly data, we must have the courage to step up and speak up if there’s a better way. This sometimes does mean challenging clients on what they think and having those hard conversations. However, if you truly believe you are right then don’t be afraid to challenge convention – it is one of our values after all! Clients pay us to be media experts, not yes men and although everything may not get off the ground, at least we can sleep easy at night knowing that we had the courage to speak up. The truth of the matter is that in this new Technicolour world of ours, nothing is black and white.

Heart is perhaps the most important quality needed in Oz. The latest Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey puts “advertising people” as the second lowest regarded profession in Australia at 5%. Given that we’re not as lovable at the Tin Man, we need to find other tactics to show our compassion. More and more prospective clients are placing an increasing importance on corporate social responsibility. The trend of paying it forward is no longer a fad; it’s here to stay and businesses need to jump on board or get left behind. It’s no coincidence that OMD consistently ranks in BRW’s annual Great Places to Work survey, or that the Melbourne office is one of the happiest within the global network. Initiatives such as the charity day off, our various fundraisers throughout the year and the great work we do on clients like The Salvos and Red Cross Blood Service are what make us proud of the work we do.

The bottom line is that in Oz – clients (whether they would like to admit it or not) – are looking for well-rounded partners with brains, courage and heart, and we need to step up to the challenge. We need the brains to future-proof our agency model and evolve from commoditisation to consultancy, the courage to challenge convention and back our own judgement, and the heart to come into work every day and love what we do. 2015 is a different world to 1995 and even 2005 but one thing is certain though; we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.


This article was written for AdNews: http://www.adnews.com.au/opinion/agencies-need-to-step-up-to-the-challenge

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