The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

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May 23, 2019 | 3 min read

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The agency landscape is only becoming more convoluted and busy, as new areas of expertise arise and trends come and go. For agencies, that has led to increased competition for the most valuable clients, and a constant struggle to stand out among the herd. Despite the temptation to go in for gimmicks or chase the latest trends, ultimately the most successful agencies are those that have a solid base of fundamental values on which to build.

art and science

The art and science

During a recent The Drum webinar, two agency leaders shared some insights into how they build those solid foundations at their own businesses and how, in the end, it comes down to having a solid grasp on what kind of company they want to work for.

Nick Presley is executive creative director at Initials. He believes that agencies need to find the time to turn the lens they apply to their clients on themselves: “It’s about two things: What makes you as an agency what you are? What makes your memorable, what makes you salient? The second one is about knowing who you are as an agency and people, and actually spending a lot of time working out what you stand for.”

René Praestholm, VP of global agency solutions at Deltek agrees, noting that once your values have been defined, they need to be defended even when it flies in the face of short-term success: “Once you’ve defined your DNA, having the guts to say no to clients or to work that doesn’t bring you in the right direction is very important.”

He shared research demonstrating that 49% of agencies report a profit loss of 11% as a result of over-servicing clients, and that regardless of the size of the organisation no agencies should take on more than 15-22 active clients at any one time. Ultimately, he argues, it comes down to defending the ability of your agency to service its most valuable clients effectively.

That extends to defending the way your agency works. Presley argues that creativity is not a tap, and is more like an “organic fermentation process” that occurs on its own schedule: “In this day and age everything is so urgent that the expectation is… sometimes it affects the most important time of the business, which is thinking time. I call that ‘time to play’.”

The pair noted that it can take time to develop the confidence to defend those values in the face of unrealistic client expectations and the overall hectic nature of the industry. Despite that, the reality is that an agency is only as good as its reputation, and its reputation is dependent on the values it defends.

These points and many further insights can be divulged in the video above.

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