Tony Quin, chairman of the The Global Society for Digital Marketing Innovators and founder and CEO of IQ discusses the membership organisation with The Drum, how it came to be, it's plans in the UK and Europe, partnerships with other networks and what he is hearing from member agencies.
Can you give me some idea about the rationale behind GSDMI?
The idea of gathering a group of digital agency CEOs together came up at drinks between me and another CEO of a digital agency. 13 agency heads then spent a couple of days together in Miami six years ago. It was such a good experience that we all decided to do it again and after the third get together the idea of the organisation was born.
So what does the organisation aim to achieve for its members then?
Membership value is our top priority. They get it first from the candid exchange of ideas and information with their peers which are something that just doesn’t happen in the normal course of business. In addition we have peer groups by specialization with over 400 members, we also produce everything from salary surveys to benchmark studies, we have regular roundtables, meet-ups and much more including legal advice, GSDMI recommended documents from contracts to operational documentation etc.
So how will this extend to the UK and Europe then?
Our focus for the last 18 months has been on GSDMI outside of the US and we now have more non US members for the first time. We have dedicated staff members now around the world including in London working on events and collaboration as well as local market experts in areas like legal, business practices etc. We are adapting our recommended document sets and supporting activities and conferences in the UK. and Europe.
But what differentiates this from other membership bodies out there - of where there are many?
There are lots of groups for ad pros of one kind or another, but we are the only one that focuses on digital agencies at the C-level. You can’t get in unless you commit to c-level participation. When c-level guys start exchanging in a safe collegial environment great value happens and that’s what our members have consistently seen. Even though we are competitors some of the time we have decided that we want to compete based on ideas and creativity not the mechanics of running our businesses so we help each other.
Is London the focus or have you looked outside of London for UK membership?
We are still relatively new to all the countries in Europe including the UK so we have primarily been hearing about agencies in London. Unlike other organizations we are an invitation only organisation and we are tough to get into. We only want the best of the best and it’s a pretty rigorous process to get accepted. So we are not out there looking for prospects as such.
So how do you go about pinpointing and targeting complained to invite?
Recommendations and applications go to regional membership committees. They review and make recommendations to the board. The board evaluates and makes recommendations to the entire membership. The membership vote.
How many are on the committee and what are they looking for from potential members?
We have four members on each committee.
You said you'd partnered with other organisations. On what type of projects would those be?
We look for agencies with 60% digital work minimum, top notch clients, innovative recognized work and respected leadership. Reputation and fit is very important.
And what about partnerships. How have those worked and why we're they necessary?
We’ve worked with 4As, IAB, ihaveanidea and Creative Social, primarily in terms of co-promotion of activities / events.
What are you hearing most from your members at the moment about their experiences in the marketplace? Is that varying within Europe that you are aware of?
Companies in our industry getting squeezed by technology start-ups who are able to offer developers more money and a lottery ticket for the potential “big win”
The changing nature of the Digital AOR. Historically, Digital AORs were responsible for the output of all digital assets. Now, in many instances, the lead agency (or digital AOR) is responsible for setting the strategy. Many GSDMI member companies moving into this role may give up some revenue on highly commoditized work, but they’re finding themselves further up the value chain when it comes to crowded agency ecosystems that are typical when working with blue-chip brands.
We also he about the importance of constantly reinventing yourself. Many of our member companies have opened operations in multiple regions around the world – from Asia to Europe to North America. In some European markets, they may be operating in start-up mode, while they’re a dominant player in another part of the world (or even in another European market). Just because you did things a certain way last year (or operated a certain way in a different part of the world), it’s important to realize that you need to adapt to the realities and nuances of the market you’re entering, be it London, Moscow, Paris or any other European market for that matter.