Cannes 07

Agency Execs Sound Off (Again) on Reinventing Agency Model

Battle for Talent, Understanding Consumer Behavior Key Themes of Cannes Panel

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CANNES ( -- The theme of this year's Cannes Debate, moderated by Advertising Age publisher Scott Donaton, echoed a conversation being held at many conferences and in many boardrooms over the past year: "Now or Never: Reinventing the Agency Model."
Scott Donaton moderated the debate.
Scott Donaton moderated the debate. Credit: Pat Denton

David Droga, founder-creative chairman, Droga 5; Daniel Morel, chairman-CEO, Wunderman; Andrew Robertson, president-CEO, BBDO Worldwide; and Jeff Goodby, co-chairman, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, all agreed that no agency will walk into the office Monday morning to a wholly new model. The things need to evolve, they said. The only problem is, evolution (and not the Dove kind) is taking an awfully long time.

The battle for talent
"Our competitors in other industries are both bigger than us and more nimble," Mr. Droga said, as agencies battle for smart, creative talent with media and technology companies that pay more.

"Advertising is an industry of formulas," Mr. Droga said. "There are formulas to everything we do. What's changed is the assumptions [about what the consumer wants]."

Mr. Droga's solution is to take talent from those media and tech competitors and see how the new employees can put their own spin on the advertising world and its status quo.

"I'm not trying to change the advertising industry," he said, "I'm just trying to change my advertising world."

Perhaps the best tactic for agencies to take is to evolve day after day. Call it "The Madonna Principle." She may have been able to reinvent herself album after album, but there was always an inkling of where she was headed next, be it "Truth or Dare," "Blonde Ambition," spiritual awakening or disco reawakening.

'Creating experiences'
"We need to stop thinking of distributing, interrupting," said Mr. Robertson, "but [start thinking about] creating experiences."

"The challenge," Mr. Robertson said, "is to simplify what is horribly wrong with the industry."

To start, Mr. Robertson believes agencies should focus on behavior-driven insights, which he said are richer than ideology-based insights. Second, ideas should be big, but definable in a text message. ("Kid can see dead people no one else can" being one example of a simple explanation for a mind-blowing movie.) Lastly, Mr. Robertson said, agencies need to "craft the smart out of it." In other words, make the idea what's best for the client, not a glamorous spot that only looks good on a creative's reel.

"The work is the only thing that matters," Mr. Robertson said. "Agencies don't. ... Great work is what changes people's behavior."
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