Jason Goodman exits Albion: 'The death of the agency model is inevitable but it may take a century longer than I guessed'

Jason Goodman reflects on the ad industry as he leaves Albion

Founder of Albion and Tribal DDB Jason Goodman has left his final role within the advertising agency business, vacating his position as chairman of Albion to pursue a path he was already well-versed in - startups.

Goodman told the Drum that after transitioning from chief executive to chairman, a move that followed the acquisition of the agency by KBS in 2014, the role became more like a non-exec one, as he began to focus on other areas. He’s now a few months into his entrepreneur in residence role at venture capitalists Atomico, which is his first step toward becoming fully-ensconced in the startup world.

“It’s been 15 years since I started the business and that’s a long time for anyone to be involved,” he said, speaking just of Albion. Prior to Albion, he had also started and Tribal DDB, another agency known for an innovative, digital approach to advertising.

“There’s no question, this is a move out of advertising. I’ve been investing as an angel for 10 years but last year I have been able to really double down in terms of learning crafts and skills. People treat you differently and it gives you license to do new things,” he says.

“It is the world I have enjoyed living in, rather than the classical ‘Soho and Cannes’ [side of the industry], which frankly has started to deconstruct in any case but a lot slower than I thought it would.”

He argued that agencies must offer more consultative services for clients but stressed that many are not fit for purpose.

“I think there are some structural issues in industry that go beyond any of the group's power to change. There is a shift from the agency model to more of a consultancy model and by default that is playing with margins. It is destroying the profitability of agencies worldwide and it’s unhinging the agency model, finally. I think that some agencies are better positioned to deal with it than others, agencies like those in the MDC Group (such as KBS and Albion others such as CP+B and 72andSunny) anticipate change and are working on becoming very strategic. Inevitably the vast majority are completely unready.

“But maybe I have grown up a bit; I was predicting the business model to fail back in the day. When I started Tribal, I was ranting about that stuff then and 25 years later you realise things do change very very slowly in terms of business. Both agencies and clients are complicit in the slow change. The death of the agency model is inevitable but it may take a century longer than I guessed,” he admits.

The way in which Albion approached the changing agency model was to take a very early look at startups as a revenue driver and then learn from them and use that to help bigger, more traditional brands.

“Our timing was good in terms of being early to engage in the EU tech scene and it’s been our center of gravity for 15 years. I am now working as an entrepreneur in residence at Atomico, so I am back working with Niklas [Zennstrom the founder of Skype and Atomico]. Skype was one of the big things we were involved with and I was an interim CMO at Skype for a while, while running Albion. It was the same with Betfair,” he said.

Other Albion work he was recalls include King and its Candy Crush brand, Zoopla and GiffGaff for Telefonica, “that’s fundamentally what I like doing and those are my proudest moment".

It’s no surprise then that as part of his increased time within startups, he’s found himself as interim CMO once again, at Tide. He said this is bringing him back to the agency space once again as the company searches for partners to work with.

“Last year we invested in Tide, a challenger business bank, and in my role as angel I got more involved with the founder and became CMO. I’m now on the other side of fence hiring agencies. It’s great but it is interesting working with agencies that are now living and breathing this philosophy that Albion spent 15 years developing. It has become a natural perspective for this new wave of good agencies.

“If we achieved anything, it was being a part of rethinking the role of the agency and our responsibility to build brands and clients. You see it now with agencies taking equity from clients more often, and business partnerships becoming far more serious. A lot of these things are now industry norms and if that’s how I step out of the industry, then I can do it with a wry smile,” he mused.

Albion is now led from Shoreditch by Paul Jakimciw, who was made chief executive when the company was bought almost two years ago. The agency is behind Thomas Cook’s marketing overhaul, in which it looks to future-proof itself from continued disruption to the travel industry.

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