Agency Brief: 10 resolutions for 2019

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Val DiFebo, CEO of Deutsch New York, has a neon
Val DiFebo, CEO of Deutsch New York, has a neon "Yes" sign. Credit: Deutsch

It's the fourth day of the new year. New York's salad joints have transformed into hellholes overcrowded with resolution-abiding Manhattanites. Gym-goers are fighting over stationary bikes.

But resolutions aren't just about physical fitness. I talked to agency folks and came away with 10 ways they plan to be a little bit better this year, and not in the calorie-counting way.

Here's what they said:

1. Stop being a naysayer

"Say 'yes.' I have a huge neon "YES" sign that hangs behind my desk. It's not only symbolic of my open-door policy, an invitation to have courageous conversations, but is a reminder to make saying 'yes' everyone's job. It inspires people to think about how to make strong arguments for why 'yes' is the right answer and to make the case for why/how 'yes' can push limits and help us build the never-before." — Val DiFebo, CEO, Deutsch New York

2. Let good ideas rule

"Our new year's resolution is to avoid producing any creative work that assumes it does not need a captivating idea simply because it is served up at an 'appropriate' moment." —Susan Credle, global chief creative officer, FCB

3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

"Respect our industry and take pride in what we do. Let's stop with all the negative noise, and focus on the difference we can make. When done well, advertising has a massive effect on brands, the people that work for them and those that use them daily. A strong brand point of view is as powerful as ever." — Jan Jacobs, co-founder and chief creative officer, Johannes Leonardo.

4. Be ethical

"Start taking responsibility about how we collect data on humans and what information we use to target and track them." —Frances Webster, co-founder and CEO, Walrus

Webster, who says resolutions fall into the categories of things you want to start doing and things you want to stop doing, also has one for the other category.

5. Shut up about advertising's demise

"Stop predicting the death of advertising. We are lucky to work in an industry that supports the creative class, where we have the opportunity to make incredible work that makes our clients' brands famous. Plenty of agencies, especially independents, are thriving."

6. Say no to spec pitches

"It's January and we'll all make resolutions to exercise, eat healthier, manage stress better and spend more time with our loved ones. Well, nothing takes us away from all those things more than a badly run new-business pitch. In 2019, let's all make a vow to value our expertise more and say no to spec pitches that devalue our collective creativity. Our existing clients will love us more for giving them our complete focus instead of chasing every shiny new object that comes our way. Who knows, maybe by year's end we'll see better-run RFPs across the board." — Zak Mroueh, founder and chief creative officer and CEO, Zulu Alpha Kilo

7. Remember that people and relationships trump tools

"The only thing we are really selling is authentic relationships. If an agency can't demonstrate how they truly want to help a client's business, it will result in a lost opportunity. What makes one agency more successful over another in the hairsplitting decisions that clients make after the final pitch presentations? The people on the agency team. Yes… Business smarts, proper resources, breakthrough creative all count without fail. But in the end, the deciding factor comes down to strong relationships built on chemistry, credibility and trust. The 2019 new business formula is quite simple: credibility + trust + consistent relationship building = new business success." —Lisa Colantuono, president, AAR Partners

8. Be nice

"We choose to work only with people and clients we respect as professionals and as humans. There is no place in our business for abuse or lack of civility from colleagues or from clients – no matter their excuses or their budgets." —Tom Sullivan, CEO, Vitro

9. Step into the light

"My hope for the ad industry in 2019 is that agencies and brands will be more conscious of their spending decisions and take greater responsibility for the kind of companies, content, and people they choose to support. Everything truly is connected, and ad spends should not be 'dark money.' —Ian Schafer, former CEO of Deep Focus

And one last one from me...

10. Work on diversity and inclusion efforts that are higher up the rungs

My colleague I-Hsien Sherwood wrote earlier this year about how there isn't a pipeline problem in the marketing world, there's a retention problem. Agencies often concentrate diversity and inclusion efforts at the entry level — they need to also provide support and programs to get their people into more senior levels (and to keep them there).

So take the weekend to chew on these, since agency life will be back to business next week. But first, read on for a bit of this week's agency news.

The coconut gets cheesy

Cheddar has tapped MightyHive — the digital media and programmatic consultancy that was recently acquired by Martin Sorrell's S4 Capital for $150 million — to handle its programmatic advertising services. Sorrell has famously referred to S4 as a coconut.

Remembering Ogilvy's Bill Phillips

Former Ogilvy chairman and CEO William Phillips passed away last week at the age of 88 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Phillips, a Chicago native, moved to New York in 1959 to become account supervisor on Ogilvy & Mather's Maxwell House Coffee account. He directed the agency's pro-bono "Big Apple" campaign for New York City, and eventually retired in 1988. According to his obituary, Phillips' credo was a good one: "You do what you like; you are what you do." His memorial service will be held at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme in Connecticut on January 24.

On the move…

Mastercard has snagged an agency exec as its first chief experience officer. Donald Chesnut joins the Purchase, New York-based company on Jan. 14. He was formerly global chief experience officer at SapientRazorfish, a role he had held since 2017.

Virtue — Vice's in-house creative agency — has promoted Cameron Farrelly to be chief creative officer for North America. He joined Virtue in 2016 as an executive creative director. Vice's former chief creative officer Thomas Punch, who concurrently served as chief creative officer of Virtue, left the company late last year.

Contributing: Adrianne Pasquarelli

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