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November 13, 2007
Integration, Collaboration, Transformation: Agency Leaders Speak Out at Agency Summit 2007

Dramatic Changes Affecting Advertising in the Digital Age

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From the keynote remarks of Universal McCann CEO Nick Brien and McKinney Chairman and CEO Brad Brinegar to the day’s final forum moderated by Randall Rothenberg, the IAB’s Leadership Forum: Agency Summit provided a showcase for open discussions on the dramatic changes affecting the advertising, marketing and media companies in the digital age. Are there challenges? For sure. But every agency executive who took to the podium demonstrated a willingness to work with marketers and media companies to meet the new age with an open mind. In a world that is, admittedly, complex, the members of the agency world, as well as the marketers and media company representatives who attended, were willing to share their strategies for dealing with the wealth of new channels and platforms.

Throughout the summit, which took place in New York City on November 12, 2007, we saw the best in cross-functional teamwork involving digital agencies, traditional agencies, media companies and marketers—showing how the masters do it now in 21st century marketing.

Universal McCann’s Nick Brien opened his morning keynote telling the audience that “brands still matter,” and went on to talk about how: “With brands in the public domain, 21st century marketing involves consumers as participants which changes our role as agencies from simply the art of persuasion to persuasion plus influence.” He implored agencies and marketers to re-visit the “big idea” but in new ways that would give consumers exceptional experiences to drive their conversation with brands. In a world where “media is the ultimate social lubricant,” and clients are looking for explosive growth, today’s brand management is about encouraging and not controlling the conversation with consumers.

Brands do still matter, but to Brad Brinegar, who gave the afternoon’s opening keynote address: “It’s one thing to allow consumers to participate with your brand but it’s something else to hand over the reins of a corporation’s most valuable asset.” Brinegar highlighted two key ways for brands to win today—mastering elegant complexity and creating category-defining ideas. Mastering elegant complexity is “about all the ways people interact with brands and embracing the rich variety of ways that consumers can interact with them but bringing coherence to the conversation.” He used the example of McKinney’s winning campaign for Audi A 3, the Art of the H3ist (MIXX Award Winner 2005). Category-defining ideas are ones that completely redefine the competitive landscape. They are expressed, according to Brinegar, in brands like Nike, Apple and Starbucks, which through their extraordinary focus on customer and product have become “big ideas” unto themselves, moving beyond the status of brands into icons that consumers crave. He urged both agencies and marketers to take that approach as they redefine what an agency does for clients.

Brinegar believes that integration is key as new agency models emerge and thrive. “The model that is going to win is going to be a combination of a conversational model to encourage category defining ideas and elegant complexity networked with likeminded partner experts.”

One of the day’s case studies, BMW’s “Relearn to Drive” campaign, shows what happens when a tiny budget, a premier automotive brand and the digital age get together. Ken Bracht, BMW Communications Manager, and Lee Newman, Senior VP, Group Account Director at GSD&M, demonstrated how a small consumer insight like how one learned to drive can be transformed into a big idea—one with demonstrable results. You can view the campaign at http://www.relearntodrive.com

The day ended on a high note, with a far-reaching dialogue among some of the brightest agency and media minds in digital moderated by the IAB’s Rothenberg. McKinney’s Brad Brinegar joined Rob Norman, CEO, GroupM Interaction Worldwide; James Warner, Executive Vice President, Avenue A | Razorfish; and Lauren Wiener, Senior Vice President, Meredith Interactive, Meredith Corporation. They discussed their visions of the advertising landscape, now and to come.

Rob Norman summed up a lot of the discussion with his response to a question on the nontraditional roles that media companies and ad agencies find themselves in today: “I have clients who are both competitors and suppliers, ‘compliers’ is the phrase I’ve coined, and I must define the ecosystem with every one of these relationships.”

Lauren Weiner shared with the audience how one of the nation’s oldest publishing companies plotted its transition from a traditional media company to something entirely new: “We are not a magazine company. We are training all of our editors to learn to tell stories in different media. It’s liquid content and it can go anywhere but with our editors always in the driver’s seat.”

In a world where marketers act like media companies, media companies act like advertising agencies and consumers seemingly have control of it all, this year’s Agency Summit provided a roadmap on how to measure success and simplify processes in this new ecosystem.

Warner, Norman, Brinegar, Wiener, Rothenberg
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