We're in the money... aren't we? What agencies can learn from the Asda/Sainsbury’s merger

So another supermarket sweep roll of the dice has seen Asda appoint AMV to take charge of the agency ecosystem. Helpfully, via it’s group of agencies.

Having lost Sainsburys a few months ago, it comes as no real surprise to see them win another big supermarket assignment. And it turns out that Asda and Sainsbury are in talks to come together!

Who knew?

Well somebody did, and it didn’t seem to stop the regular ‘if in doubt call an advertising pitch’ urges of Asda.

It’s as if none of us have anything better to do.

But seriously. Do people who work in advertising have such powerful ego and personality that they can’t see that the advertising will struggle to make any difference at all?

People that work in advertising agencies are generally not marketers at all, and it often shows. But because anyone can set up an agency, lots of people do. We are in a category of over-supply, low differentiation and low distinctivity.

So what can this possibly mean? Well I wish that there was more interest in the substance of our industry over the style.

I realise that swagger, charisma, chemistry matter - but surely actual delivery, depth and diligence matter more.

But as the management consultancies, artificial intelligence and indeed clients own in sourcing continue to reduce the long term vitality and vibrancy of our businesses, surely we have to stand together to think about what an agency is and how will it remain relevant tomorrow.

We have to be about speaking truth to power, and being the insurgent that is always one step ahead of the trends, always understanding where culture and technology is taking our audiences attitudes and behaviours.

So when the Sainsbury’s CEO is caught on camera, singing ‘we’re in the money’…in between briefing various media and influencers about the potential 10% price reduction the Sainsbury/Asda merger will deliver…ask yourself two questions;

Firstly, where will these savings come from? Margins in FMCG are already cut to the bone. So the answer is people, infrastructure, back office, locations, professional services etc etc.

Secondly, how long will it be before ASDA pitch their work out again? Possibly, not long.

It’s time for the agency of the future. But it’s also time for the client of the future.

Ian Millner is the global chief executive of Iris

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