Sunday 27 May 2018

'This is no time to hang around - traditional ad agency model is no longer fit for purpose'

Future will depend on forging stronger links with clients and removing barriers, Mark McCann explains to John McGee

“The beauty of our model is that it’s flexible,” says Mark McCann, CEO of ad agency Oliver Picture: Damien Eagers
“The beauty of our model is that it’s flexible,” says Mark McCann, CEO of ad agency Oliver Picture: Damien Eagers

John McGee

As the ongoing debate over the future of the advertising agency model continues to divide the industry into different camps, Dublin-based agency Oliver is betting the house on a radical shake-out over the coming years.

"The traditional advertising agency model is dead and is no longer fit for purpose. It is also guilty of inertia, has remained unchanged for decades and supports a creative process that is both protractive and costly," says Mark McCann, CEO of Oliver.

Oliver is one of several global agencies that is not hanging around to see what unfolds. Over the past few years it has created a business model that flies in the face of the traditional one embraced by most agencies. Forging much closer links with its clients, the agency embeds or co-locates teams of creative, digital and design professionals into their client's workplace. These teams, or mini-agencies as McCann refers to them, work on-site on a daily basis and are generally the first port of call for most of a company's marketing and advertising requirements.

"We remove the physical and metaphorical barriers between client and agency and in effect, they are an extension of the marketing department. Similar to the traditional model, brilliant creative remains at the core of our offering. However, contrary to convention, we position dedicated creative agencies inside client businesses, creating agile, real-time, on-brand communications," says McCann.

The agency was established in 2011 by McCann and is part of the Oliver Group in the UK which has over 900 staff working in offices in France, Germany, Netherlands, USA, Singapore, Turkey and Malaysia.

Oliver Group itself was set up in 2004 and is the fastest growing independent agency group in the UK. Agency brands within the group include the digital agency Dare; Aylesworth Fleming, a UK activation business; Marketing Matters, a strategic and creative agency, and the content marketing business, Adjust your Set.

With 50 staff in Dublin - and plans to grow this - the model would appear to be working and clients that have embraced it in Ireland include the likes of Bank of Ireland, Davy, Britvic, Ryanair, the IRFU, PepsiCo, BWG, New Ireland and the Irish League of Credit Unions.

Like traditional agencies, McCann says Oliver is capable of providing a full suite of services to clients.

"We provide a full agency service and we draw the best expertise from the wider Oliver group to ensure the most effective team is dedicated to each client's specific needs. We offer strategy, creative execution across all media and production services delivering multi-faceted campaigns comprising television radio, video, press and OOH ads, brochure-ware, in-store activations, POS, digital display, EDMs and websites.

"We also provide content generation, SEO, UX, UI, app development and analytics for customers - the full spectrum of marcoms tools in essence," he adds.

"The beauty of our model is that it's flexible and we can provide clients with a full agency service or segmented services and we don't subscribe to competitive resistance. We regularly bring lead creative to life in online and offline mediums and working with other agencies is par for the course."

While Oliver has been successful in winning clients over the past few years, the often rigid and inflexible pitching regime that operates in Ireland has not been conducive to winning business.

"The pitch process varies," says McCann. "Some clients conduct these themselves, others employ a pitch doctor and I suppose the challenge for us is that we're new to market. Many agencies of record have years of tenure. Also, many large businesses play safe when choosing agencies. They opt for long-standing entities, with bulging trophy cabinets, and forgo new disrupters in the process. I feel our innovative model and our portfolio of work to date should override our lack of enduring experience to warrant inclusion in the pitch process. I'd love them to have the courage take a punt on us," he adds.

The nature of the client/agency relationship in the future will also change, he says.

"Clients will want to be involved in the creative process and they will centralise creative demand to consolidate campaign efficacy and reach. In addition, financial performance and business outcomes will have supplanted vanity metrics and the demand for greater transparency will continue to gather momentum," he says.

"Agencies will become more akin to creative communities, comprising right brain and left brain thinking with creative and strategic brains collaborating to create exceptional communication.

"Large agencies will consume smaller models, acquiring talent and augmenting services in a bid to extend their remit and proposition. But traditional agencies that fail to re-invent themselves face extinction. Those mastering technology like artificial reality, artificial intelligence and audio visual, will outshine their competitors," he concludes.

Sunday Indo Business

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