Agency leaders and executives gathered at Facebook Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore for The Drum’s first Agency Acceleration Day in APAC on Wednesday (16 October) to discuss talent, in-housing, pitching, overservicing in the industry and more.
The event brought together brands leaders, independent agency founders and holding company heads for feisty discussions in front of a captive audience that fired a volley of insightful questions at them.
Brands including Proctor and Gamble, Mars Petcare, Ben and Jerry’s, were also on hand to share their expectations of agencies today.
Here’s what you need to know:
Jessica Davey, chief marketing officer at McCann Worldgroup APAC said agencies are too often treating other agencies as competition and as their biggest challenge. However, the biggest challenge agencies have at the moment is proving what it does to the board, the chief financial officer, chief executive officer, and not the other agencies.
A question was raised about the time and money agencies spent on pitches, and not receiving feedback about their pitches when they do not win. A key reason was that clients are too junior and quite worried about giving negative feedback, but that hurts agencies because feedback is a building block for agencies that do not win.
Shufen Goh, principal and co-founder at R3 said she agreed that most of the time, the clients just go silent. However, she said R3 does not give up and she will go above the junior teams to get feedback. If she is not getting a response from the day-to-day team or procurement, she will write to the chief marketing officer.
Another panellist, Joanna Jones, the head of client servicing in APAC at Vice said feedback is extremely important and for Vice, one of the best things the agency can get out of pitches is a learning experience. That means with every pitch, that it has to get feedback.
According to a talent migration report by Grace Blue, it found that up to 40% of agency senior-level talent was migrating to work in-house for brands because they want work-life balance and to do work that feels more meaningful.
For new graduates, they find working for a high-profile brand with workplace perks and the ability to make the calls on challenging projects more attractive.
Benjamin Roberts, the vice president, talent management in APAC at Essence noted there a lot more choices for new talent to choose from these days and work-life balance, something the industry is not well-known for, is key for them.
Professor Mark Chong, associate professor of communication management at Singapore Management University (SMU) said as it is difficult for schools to keep up with the speed of change for the industry, he always integrates real-life clients briefs into his projects for students, something SMU did with R/GA.
Dorothy Peng, managing director for Singapore at R/GA said the agency partnered with SMU because it felt students need and require more exposure, in order for them to keep pace with the industry. Sitting on the curriculum advisory panel for SMU’s corporate communication undergraduate course allowed her to craft the module.
When it comes to going outside the industry to recruit talent, Mandy Goh, the director of talent development, TWBA\Singapore said agency inductions are important. TBWA takes in young graduates with engineering and logistics background, and it sees students with creativity, but are unsure about how to apply it to the industry, so agency inductions are important.
The client-agency relationship was referred to as a marriage, which means that both the client and agency need to put work in for the long-term.
Chetan Asher, founder of Tonic Worldwide, said you should think about having 'date nights' with clients, by finding new ways to re-engage them and show the value you bring to the relationship. The group said some ways of doing this would be doing learning sessions. For example, Iris client services director Daniel Cullen said the agency creates bespoke client updates after it visits events like SXSW, helping clients understand the trends.
Speaking as a client, Shamini Nair, area director, Asia Pacific, Diabetes, Abbott Laboratories, said that onboarding was key, as it started the relationship off at the right point.
One of the big trends for the client-agency relationship, according to Richard Bleasdale, managing director at The Secret Little Agency, was the increased presence of procurement in the relationship. The group agreed that it was a big factor in relationships increasingly being about cost, so more needed to be done to prove the value of marketing, and for it to not be seen as a cost centre.
The first sign of hiring an unprofitable client comes up during the pitch process said Annette Male, chief executive officer for APAC at Wunderman Thompson. She said the agency recently received a pitch invite where the back of pitch document said the agency won’t receive a lot of money for the business, but “will get to work with an amazing brand”.
As a young agency that creates memes, Kerrin Kua, assistant manager, business development and accounts at SGAG said most projects are project-based and the worrying signs are when the email chain from the client is very long. However, she does not mind overservicing if it’s a new client because she believes the benefits are long-term, but keep revisions short.
Having strong support from the sales team and the support from great leadership of what makes a good client is important to prevent clients from going overboard with their requests, said Nicola Eliot, director, storyworks APAC at BBC Global News. She urged agencies to be willing to say no to clients that are not good for their business.