Adapt Or Die: The Agency Must Have Mantra

By BKV in Media Strategy on September 9th, 2010

HTML to PHP, branding to direct response to a hybrid approach, last click to attribution and engagement models, direct mail to email to social CRM, spot TV to on-demand viewing to online streaming, mobile media morphing old adinto various forms from standard WAP sites to iPhone and Droid Apps to iAD and star/star platforms-we work in a constant state of flux! The amount of change that happens in our industry is rapid and increasing even faster as open source technologies are adopted and deployed. After graduating from college, my first job was at a news radio station and I lamented about how stressful it was to always be on the look-out for a newsworthy story and be the first to report it, while ensuring all your sources were accurate. "What a stressful environment-this is why they all smoke..." I thought, so I jumped ship and went into advertising. Could I have been more wrong in thinking our world would have been so vastly different? In the twelve or so years I've worked within the agency world, I have noticed the pace of change and the importance to embrace it become more and more important. Agencies that solely focus on one medium are disappearing, being swallowed up by larger conglomerates, or trying to speed additions to their capabilities. Brand agencies are looking for DR experts; DR agencies are losing business if they can't do the branding initiatives their clients are looking for. Clients don't know what they want, but they want it all. The last three years seem to have really been affected by this rapid acceleration, and we need to embrace it and practice it-with rapid change comes the blurring of lines and we need to understand and form points-of-view and re-invent ourselves to stay current. It is tiring, but it does not need to be. The following are some strategies that can help: thumb
  1. Subscribe to industry news and blogs: Start with the Mediapost ones (they have separate newsletters/blogs for almost all vehicles); once you have digested the material, there are dozens of other great sources out there that go into extreme detail.
  2. Include more cutting edge sources like Mashable, The Next Web, TechCrunch and set-up a category for your industry news in an RSS reader, Twitter client, or Facebook feed so you are forced to at least "see" them. Warning: the Facebook feed will ruin your weekends.
  3. Follow other agency peep tweets: I follow the top media directors from numerous agencies, and it is always interesting to gauge their dialogue as a peek into their new strategies.
  4. Accept vendor meetings: even if their technology, site, network, or service seems off target or too new--it may not be in the near future.
  5. Listen to the Gen-Ys in your agency, they are the buzz agents: they will adopt trends like a starlet on Robertson Boulevard. Learn to sift through flash in the pan concepts vs. the ones that'll stick. Working hand-in-hand with them is a great strategy to ensure agency currency. You might want to increase visibility of their ideas through adopting an agency blog and allowing full contribution from agency staff at all levels. We do.
  6. Keep an open mind: Just because you have been trained to think a certain way (and it works) doesn't mean you should abandon off-kilter concepts. Test these concepts against yours, and balance the new with the old. The minute you forget to do this, you will not be current.
  7. Never leave behind what's worked for the latest trend: make sure you have adequate core strategies in place just in case the next new thing becomes nothing-remember Google Wave?
  8. Invest in new thinking strategically and go to as many seminars as you can: if you can't afford to send a group, then at least send someone who can document and report finding back to the agency departments.
What do you think about this rapid change? How has your agency or marketing department adapted to welcome and test all the new developments? What strategies do you use to keep current? How tired are you?