Tag Archives: J. Walter Thompson

One Hundred Years Later. Has Anything Really Changed?

27 Dec

Sears Catalog CoverWe’re all familiar with the old adage: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Strange as that may sound, the notion behind this saying is simple. No matter how complex a situation may appear, nor the rate or nature of changes that we may be dealing with, there tends to be an underlying corollary that remains constant.

To test this hypothesis, I spent some time browsing through the archives of Duke University’s John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History to gain a perspective on what marketers were dealing with at the beginning of the twentieth-century. As importantly, I wanted to compare their reality with the environment in which we operate today.

Surely the fundamentals facing marketers had to have changed, I reasoned. There have simply been too many advancements and technological improvements for the aforementioned adage to hold true. However, a quick review of some key events then and now might suggest otherwise… you be the judge:

Then

  • 1915 – Millions of dollars are spent on advertising and public relations to stimulate consumer demand
  • 1915 –  Modern market research begins, resulting in ads being increasingly targeted to specific audiences
  • 1915 – The first transcontinental telephone line opens from NY to San Francisco
  • 1916 – Self-Service retailing is invented by the Piggly Wiggly chain of grocery stores
  • 1916 – U.S. automotive and truck production exceeds one million new units
  • 1918 – The New York Times begins home delivery
  • 1918 – Ad legend James Walter Thompson sells his namesake agency to Stanley B. Resor and partners
  • 1918 – The Federal Government takes control of the nation’s telephone and telegraph systems
  • 1921 – Badly hurt by the depression, Sears, Roebuck & Company Chairman Julius Rosenwald pledged $21 million of his own funds to bail the company out

Now

  • 2018 – Billions of dollars are spent on advertising and earned media to stimulate consumer demand
  • 2018 – AI aided market research and predictive analytics allow marketers to better chart the consumer journey
  • 2018 – Number of worldwide mobile phone users expected to pass 5.0 billion
  • 2018 – Amazon Go unveils revolutionary check-out free convenience stores
  • 2018 – U.S. Plug-in-Electric Vehicle sales estimated to eclipse 400,000 units
  • 2018 – The New York Times achieves 2 million digital only subscribers
  • 2018 – The J. Walter Thompson brand is merged with Wunderman to form Wunderman Thompson
  • 2018 – The Federal Communications Commission repeals net neutrality rules
  • 2018 – Sears files for bankruptcy, closing 140+ stores, Chairman Eddie Lampert submits $4.4 billion bid to buy the chain and stave off closure

While the size and scale of the issues that our industry was dealing with are certainly different, the fundamentals are actually more similar than not. Whether in the context of advancements in retail models or modes of media distribution to the impact of emerging product sectors and government regulation or even developments related to changes in agency ownership, there is a certain “sameness” to our industry… even after an eventful 100 years.

Hopefully we can find comfort in the aforementioned adage and confidence in the fact that our predecessors were able to successfully navigate the challenges which they faced to help create what has become one of the world’s most stimulating and dynamic business sectors, advertising and marketing.

As we reflect on the passing of another year and contemplate the challenges and opportunities that will present themselves to us in 2019 all of us at AARM would like to offer up an old Irish toast to each of you:

May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future. May your troubles be less and your blessings be more and nothing but happiness come through your door.

Can AI Bots Solve the Agency Remuneration Issue?

21 Mar

Commodorergb1-243x300It was a simpler time in 1864, or so it seems, when the “Commodore,” James Walter Thompson, founded his namesake agency.

As the ad industry grew over the next several decades, a commission based compensation system was the predominant means of remuneration. Simply put, full-service agencies kept 15% of the gross media rate charged by media owners from whom agencies purchased advertising for their clients. At some point in the 1960’s commission based remuneration began to give way to labor-based fees that were predicated on an agency’s direct labor and overhead costs and a reasonable level of profit.

It wasn’t long afterward that the agency “holding company” was born and full-service agencies gave way to agencies that specialized in a particular area such as creative development, media planning and placement and sales promotion. Both of these trends directly impacted “how” and “what” agencies charged clients for their services. As importantly, advertisers became more acutely interested in understanding more finitely the details behind the composition of their agency partners’ fees. This in turn created anxiety and concerns on the part of ad agencies and clients alike. Advertisers sought to reduce the level of fees that they were paying and the agency community sought to protect their profit margins and maintain some level of privacy surrounding their financial operations.

Fast forward to 2017 and the topic of “non-transparent” agency revenue sources such as rebates, kick-backs, float income and media arbitrage has been at the forefront of contract and compensation discussions since the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) completed their landmark “Media Transparency” study in 2016. Rightly or wrongly, many in the industry feel that client procurement tactics, focused on squeezing agency compensation led to the rise in non-transparent revenue. Agencies for their part, feel as though they are overworked and underpaid, while clients continue to sense that they are paying too much for the resources being proffered by their agency partners.

Challenging times to be sure. Add in the shift from traditional media to digital, the attendant impact on workflow and resources, the rise of new competitors to ad agencies that include consultancies, publishers and ad tech providers and the rapidly increasing impact of technology on operational efficiencies and the topic of agency compensation becomes even more vexing.

And while agencies wrestle with their organizational, talent and cultural issues, the industry is poised for a giant leap forward in operational efficiency. Algorithms that can place media and inform resource allocation planning and artificial intelligence bots that can actually create advertiser content and oversee the production of creative materials have the potential to displace agency personnel across multiple functions. The question is: “What is the impact of these technology trends on agency remuneration systems?”

For an industry that has relied on labor-based fees linked to marking-up employee salaries and selling their time to advertisers, the notion of automation and doing more with less can certainly be daunting. As IBM Watson Chief, David Kenny, once said:

“If you are using people to do the work of machines, you are already irrelevant.”

Thus it is time for the ad agency community to rethink both how they organize themselves to deliver client services and how to evolve from labor-based compensation models to outcome based remuneration systems.

Wonder if there is an AI bot that can assist with this transition?

If you’re an advertiser and interested in learning more about how to compensate your ad agency. Contact Cliff Campeau, Principal, AARM | Advertising Audit & Risk Management at ccampeau@aarmusa.com for a complimentary consultation on this important topic.

 

 

 

What is Missing in Client-Agency Relationships Today?

28 Dec

What's Missing Question Words Puzzle Holes Gaps Incomplete PictuOne can’t help but marvel at the length of some of the most enduring and successful client-agency relationships. Unilever and Lowe & Partners have been together for 117 years, Unilever and J. Walter Thompson for 114 years, General Electric and BBDO for 96 years and FCB and Levis Strauss for 43 years. In an age where the average lifespan of client-agency relationships is less than 4 years, you certainly have to tip your hat to these partnerships.

What is it that they know or are doing differently that has eluded others in their pursuit of long lasting, stable and productive relationships?

While there are certainly many contributing factors, I believe that the most important ingredient in these long lasting relationships is the principal of “fidelity.” In short, these organizations obviously share a commitment to the quality of being faithful to one other. This can be evidenced by their ongoing loyalty and mutual support for one another, an intangible but valuable trait that has served them well. As the late German actress, Lilli Palmer once said; “Fidelity is a gift, not a requirement.” But as can be evidenced by the length of these unions, this gift can yield meaningful benefits.

Experience has taught us that successful client-agency relationships are more often than not predicated on marketplace performance… building enduring brands, driving revenues and expanding market share. Great work and great outcomes are clearly an integral part of achieving success when it comes to enduring partnerships. Such work is also a byproduct of one of the keys to achieving and maintaining fidelity, a shared sense of purpose. This shared sense of purpose is truly the glue that holds relationships together. Whether that is between an organization and its associates or between advertisers their agencies and their third-party vendors.

In a complex, ever changing global marketplace the best way to instill a shared sense of purpose is to gain alignment on five key components of a client-agency relationship:

  1. Client Business Goals – For an agency, understanding the client’s overall objectives is a necessity for generating break-through ideas and developing work that will move the proverbial needle. It is also a pre-requisite to earning the respect of the C-Suite when providing strategic counsel and advice. The client organization also benefits exponentially when its personnel and business partners have a clear line of sight into the enterprise’s goals. Thus, client-side CEOs might benefit from the wisdom of George F. Burns, who said, “Define your business goals clearly so that others can see them as you do.
  2. Agency Deliverables – Establishing the agency’s role and overarching responsibilities is a necessary first step in identifying a specific set of deliverables, which in turn are designed to support the marketing objectives that will contribute to the attainment of the business goals. In turn, these deliveries will also provide the impetus for both the agency and the client to assess what level of resources they need to allocate to satisfy these expectations during the fiscal year.
  3. Resource Requirements – While we normally think about resource commitments in the context of agency time-of-staff, technology, data resources and the like, both the agency and client must ask themselves what level of resource investment is required to execute these deliverables in an efficient manner. Too often, client organizations may not be adequately staffed to provide timely and or relevant feedback on day-to-day decisions or in the context of providing sound strategic direction at the onset of campaign planning. Thus, both parties must carefully assess the amount of time and level of subject matter expertise each will require to support one another.
  4. Communication Protocols – One of the realities of client-agency relationships is the constant grind of daily tasks and unforeseen activities that sap resources, energy and potentially creativity. However menial these tasks might be, they are necessary. That said, it is equally as important to establish client-agency contact plans that allow for periodic contact between executives of both organizations to discuss business performance, opportunities and exchange ideas on how the agency can better assist the client in pursuit of its goals. Similarly, outside of the weekly status updates, monthly performance tracking discussions and financial management reporting it can be very helpful to establish regular quarterly business reviews (QBRs). These QBRs should be attended by cross functional representatives from each parties marketing, finance and procurement teams and should address both year-to-date status updates (i.e. project tracking, budget management, agency time-of-staff/ fee tracking) but also allow for meaningful discussion on potential shifts in strategy or tactical support to address competitive actions or market opportunities.
  5. Performance Measurement – Simply put, what criteria will the client use to assess the value of the agency’s contribution to the attainment of the organization’s goals… and the timely, efficient execution of its deliverables. Discussing these expectations upfront, monitoring progress on a monthly basis and making the requisite course change decisions if and when necessary can be helpful in driving consensus on how the agency and client teams are performing.

Focusing on these components of client-agency relationships will not only instill a sense of shared purpose and fidelity, but will strengthen the level of respect both organizations have for one another. In the end, this is the key to transcending the organizational changes that will inevitably occur on both sides of the aisle and nourish a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

When one considers the strains on today’s client-agency relationships there may be no truer words than those spoken by the 35th president of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy, when he said;

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: