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3 actionable insights with… McCann Worldgroup CEO Bill Kolb

McCann Worldgroup CEO Bill Kolb advises clients and agencies to work together to promote employee wellbeing

The Drum’s 3 Actionable Insights series asks industry leaders to give their thoughts on the actions our readers should take immediately.

It’s been six months since Bill Kolb took the reigns as chairman and chief executive of McCann Worldgroup. Along the way, there has been an unending series of changes in the adland, in client expectations and in the world at large. As we begin transitioning into a post-pandemic reality, The Drum asked Kolb to share three insights that marketers and agency leaders should act upon immediately.

1. Clients need to take joint ownership of the work-life balance needs of agency employees

Throughout the pandemic, employees have been more empowered. Moving forward, we need to be more progressive in terms of how we think about our teams around the world and provide more latitude to do things.

The important thing for clients to remember is that creating agency culture is 50% the agency’s responsibility and 50% the client’s responsibility. We’ve gone through this pandemic and we know that people need breaks. Clients have to realize that people need timeouts. People need the opportunity to walk away and not respond to an e-mail. That isn’t just created by the agency. If the client expects you to cancel a vacation every time something important comes up, that's not okay.

What I would say to marketers is: you own the culture of the agency as much as the agency does. We need to create an environment where people can be successful without being overwhelmed. This was an issue before the pandemic, but has become very profound during the pandemic. It’s incredibly important that there's joint ownership and a joint conversation about creating a healthy, progressive environment in which to deliver creativity.

2. Make end-to-end commerce a reality, finally

As we’ve gone through the pandemic, we’ve seen winners and losers. There are those who figured out social commerce, marketplaces and ecommerce. They were ready. Then there are those who had to make massive adjustments. The big change — and I would say this to every marketer on the planet — is that it’s time to connect end-to-end commerce as a science. You can’t just say that social is over here, marketplaces are over there, ecommerce is over there and retail is over there. They’ve got to be connected.

What we've done in commerce is not dissimilar from what happened at the beginning of the web when we basically took the company brochure and put it online. With retailers, it’s, “Oh, if we sold it in ‘X’ store, we can just put it online and consumers will buy the exact same thing.” We’ve got to move further along the maturity curve.

The products that are in a store may not be the products you should sell in social environments. The intimate connection of [all aspects] of commerce drives creativity, which drives product, which drives experiences — that rigid connection needs to be brought together. I don't think anyone's got it quite right yet. People are trying. But that holistic, end-to-end look from the physical to the digital has to finally happen and those silos have to go.

3. In the absence of cookies, creativity must be bigger, bolder and work harder

With the world we’re going into and budgets relatively constrained, the value of creativity has skyrocketed. We need to really drive creativity in a cookieless future. We’ve used cookies to adjust messages in real time with targeting and retargeting. We knew right away if a message worked or didn’t work. Now, we're not going to have that ability to say, “Okay, Bill didn’t respond to this, so I'm going to try to give him a new message.”

Creativity has to rise above at all, because we won’t have that one-to-one feedback. I’ve got to make sure that I hit you with a message that's going to knock you out of your seat, and say, “I’ve got to have that.”

Creativity has risen to a level of importance that we’ve never had before. We need marketers, clients and agencies to accept that, dial it up, nurture it and build it. We need to be big and bold in this new world. Storytelling and ideas need to carry over time. Creativity has just doubled through the pandemic and will continue to double as we break out.

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