What Would You Ask John Wren, Martin Sorrell and Michael Roth?

My Key Issues: Digital, Unbundling and Data. What Are Yours?

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Brian Perkins
Brian Perkins
Last June I wrote a column in this publication asking if we, as a client, were generally happy about the offerings of agencies and their ability to help us connect and engage with people in the digital age. I acknowledged then, as I do now, that I'm biased. I like agencies. The people and the agencies I've worked with in my career have been some of my closest and most-trusted business partners.

But as I stated nine months ago -- and I feel even stronger about it today -- it seems people are adopting and consuming media (in the very broadest sense) in ways that are outpacing agencies' ability to provide clients with timely creative and timely utilities.

I have three suggestions to address this situation. The first two have to do with breaking down walls.

Holding companies have a rich assortment of offerings that provide clients with a variety of expertise in various verticals. Maybe too many verticals. Wouldn't it be great if the talents and resources of traditional agencies and those at digital agencies merged?

While we're at it, how great would it be if our forward-thinking media agencies, more important than ever today, were able to deliver not only innovative communications planning, but also act as a source -- a scout and (true) partner to the creative groups in search of and developing of creative -- under the same roof.

Finally, given the incredible amount of data now available, we are in the era of real-time marketing, which offers the opportunity for continuous improvement. How can our agencies help bundle their analytic capabilities to deliver insight, not data, to help guide our investment decisions?

Since my article appeared, I've received quite a bit of feedback on it. The feedback goes something like this: Traditional agency types agreed 100%. Digital folks generally agreed, but added the important point that digital is not just about traditional messaging imported to the web; it also offers the incredible opportunity to extend a product's meaning and build relationships in ways traditional advertising simply cannot. I agree. And the power of those insights from the digital world should be seamlessly adopted by a more-integrated agency offering.

I heard from one market research person on the analytics and insights argument. I'm now working with that company because it so passionately brought insights, as opposed to just data, to a project we have started.

Finally, I haven't heard from one media person. Not one. Which, I assume, means they hope I go away on the issue. So I reached out to one of the deans of media (you all know the individual) and had lunch with him to probe the issue of bundling vs. unbundling. To my great surprise and delight, we agree on 90% of all the issues.

So let's push this ahead -- which leads me to the 4A's Conference in Austin, Texas, on March 8-9, where Nancy Hill, 4A's president, asked me to moderate a panel that will dive into the issues raised here.

In the spirit of this year's theme of "Transformation," I'd love your help in developing questions for the panelists: Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP; John Wren, CEO of Omnicom; and Michael Roth, CEO of IPG. You've read the issues I've raised. What questions do you have that will help define how their agencies can best serve your needs in the demanding, ever-changing business environment in which we compete?

Brian Perkins is VP-corporate affairs at Johnson & Johnson.
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