Andy Lark: “‘It’s Not Fair’ Is Always The Last Cry Of A Dying Legacy Business”

Andy Lark: “‘It’s Not Fair’ Is Always The Last Cry Of A Dying Legacy Business”

Do you trudge around your office, shaking your fist at tech-savvy start-ups stealing your clients, decrying, “It’s not fair”? Well, be careful because the “it’s not fair” tale of woe is often the sign of the dying and soon to be dead. Or so warns famed marketing contrarian Andy Lark.

Lark cites the taxi industry’s answer to the onslaught by Uber as a prime example of a legacy business screaming “it’s not fair” in the face of a big piece of disruption pie. “Yeah, it’s not fair that you’re being out-marketed and out-sold and it’s as simple as that,” Lark told B&T.

And when it came to traditional media, you often hear the same excuses, Lark said. Print media with no “value proposition” and free-to-air TV were two medias he felt were in real strife and ripe for cries of “it’s not fair”.

“TV is certainly at the beginning of the end, if not entering the middle of the end,” he regaled. “But I’m a real believer in the future of TV but it has to be reinvented completely.  The way they buy, the way they sell, the way they program, the whole thing needs a total rethink.

“You have to start building integrated, cross-screen value propositions for advertisers. You have to be smarter around your audiences. And now you’ve got every broadcaster crying, ‘It’s not fair’. How dare Facebook produce their own media reach data!” he quipped.

Lark, too, had advice for agencies in this ‘brave new world’ of disruption. “There are three really big forces at work with agencies and the first one is that there’s no question there’s a real emphasis on the creative,” he revealed. “Sure, creative’s always been important, but now there’s far less appetite for the consumer to pray and stay on the one screen, ie TV. There’s no question that the kind of creative, the creative that is needed has radically shifted. The smart agencies know this and they do it well. The smart agencies produce content that isn’t interruption based, it’s creative, you want to go look at.”

The second big shift for the ‘agency of the future’ is an emphasis on technology. “GroupM, for example, are now trying to compete with really powerful tech companies like Outbrain. Whether they’ll be successful remains to be seen. But you can see already that the smart media agencies are investing money into technology platforms of their own,” he said.

“The third thing you are seeing are agencies with completely new models. Take M&C Saatchi and what they’re doing for a client like Woolworths where they’re no longer doing that traditional fee or retainer based model. I think that desire for change started to happen five or six years ago and we’re seeing the results now. We’ve got these agencies with new business models, with new tech platforms, with entirely newly approaches to creative and that’s very powerful,” Lark said.

Successful agencies, the ones that’ll not only survive but thrive, will become a “one stop development shop”, Lark said. “In the past, all you needed was a good suit and a good creative and you could start an agency. In the future that won’t work. You’ll you need software developers, creatives, makers, coders, technicians, industrial designers, CX – this diverse range of people you are going to need to make the agency work. The advantage will shift to the really creatively diverse agency that can create amazing experiences.

“The agency of the future won’t just be having conversations with the CMO, they’ll be having conversations with the head of product development and things like customer support and service. They’ll be working with people right across the business and the smart agencies are already doing that.

“That’s why the top agencies will be this hothouse of great, creative thinking and applying data and technology and it will become this potent place for driving businesses,” he said.

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