In this opinion piece, JOY Agency general manager Amelia Thackway (pictured) explores how agencies need to adapt to help their clients crack the code to growth; a post-pandemic priority.
The tide has turned for companies who successfully weathered the COVID crisis, with global trade already recovered and even exceeding pre-pandemic levels. With many industries, particularly tourism, travel and hospitality, enjoying a resurgence – today’s goal is growth, not survival.
For a marketing and advertising sector that has had to navigate massive disruption even before the pandemic, big opportunities abound. But to take advantage, as McKinsey observes, every sector, industry, and function will have to reinvent itself to achieve maximum growth and sustainability. Agencies need to change if they are to crack the code to growth for themselves, and their clients.
The value of talent
Talent is in huge demand and is in huge deficit globally, across all industries. Of course, this extends onto advertising where we see this skills shortage across both creative and media – which means that agencies have to be much more open in thinking about what a great team looks like, consider the existing skills of talent and think strategically about how to build a team for the future in this to post-lockdown world.
It is imperative to look beyond traditional skillsets and career trajectories and embrace cross-discipline candidates and those from different backgrounds who bring fresh, dynamic thinking and approaches.
These different perspectives and expertise can really impact success for clients. An agency has to become more agile than ever in connecting our talent’s passion points with client brands. Whether it’s a former ballerina bringing her creativity to social content creation for the Sydney Dance Company, or an Account Director with a passion for beauty leading the McPhersons’ consumer beauty account – we have seen the impact of how alignment leads directly to better business outcomes, with depth of knowledge and passion driving real results.
Equally, we know that a skill that clients value highly in their agency team is the ability to think holistically about their business and challenges. Whether you’re a media or creative specialist, being able to bring connected thinking to everyday operations is what drives exponential success. It can be as simple as a Social Media Coordinator who ensures that every digital banner created is considerate of the customer experience, or a Media Strategist working to create a tightly connected solution designed to drive real customer connection and business impact.
When bringing new staff on board, we know we are looking for those who can think across disciplines – a combination of experience, curiosity, and a desire for ongoing learning.
The power of integration
In talking about what the future holds for agencies, we cannot deny the proverbial elephant in the room of Australia’s climbing cost of living. The whole nation is feeling the pinch with the effects of inflation trickling up towards business functions as well. It is likely that budget belts will be tightened come the new financial year, which will impact agencies significantly.
The future agency needs to demonstrate the value it brings, by making the whole advertising process as seamless as possible. This will means breaking down the traditional siloes in how agencies have traditionally worked. For example, the outsourcing of production – something that has long caused issue for many clients. At JOY we have increasingly begun assembling our own producing teams to deliver our ads. This is one area that an integrated agency can bring huge value to – the synergy with the production team means that the creative visions are accurately translated into the creative execution.
Regenerating brilliant cultures
A perennial challenge for the advertising industry is how much culture drives creativity. Physical presence makes a big difference: people spark off one another and generate ideas. But, with hybrid working here to stay, the agency of the future needs to navigate how to connect people across multiple virtual and physical spaces.
In the new environment, flexible working, remote working, hybrid working – these are box-ticks, not revolutionary measures. The real secret sauce will be fostering connection and putting people at ease – whether that means respecting that they have new routines and new responsibilities that no longer fit with a 9-5 commute or offering stronger mental health support.
Most importantly, agencies need to lean into the positive ways they can embrace and amplify the issues that count: diversity, reconciliation with Australia’s traditional owners, sustainability and environment responsibility. This needs to be action, not words. At Joy, we’ve signed the Reconciliation Charter, and received LGBTQI+ inclusive business certification issued by A Modern Gay’s Guide. We also run a “Small and Sustainable” initiative designed to make a positive difference in our local footprint. These are small steps towards building a positive culture for change – and every step counts.
Overall, adland’s emergence into a post-COVID world should not be a story of riding the advertising boom until it becomes a bust again. Instead, the agencies that will thrive through the hurdles that lay ahead as Australia moves through inflation, gradually rising
Interest rates and upcoming federal election – will be those that embrace change. This means constantly listening and adjusting to client needs and goals, staying future fit, being excited for the next big challenge.
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