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How to keep your agency relevant in 2020

How to keep your agency relevant in 2020

You don’t need me to tell you the industry is changing. As we enter a new year, we reflect on what another crazy one it’s been. Nothing is truer than the well-used saying “the only constant is change.” I would love to know how many presentations have included that this year! In the world of new business, we can be sure 2020 is going to be just as fast, competitive and surprising as the last one.

With new business appointments dropping by 15.2% YoY the battlefield has got even more intense. But it’s not just the fact there are less pitches, new specialist agencies are popping up left, right and centre while holding companies, like my own, are streamlining and consolidating to create something new. In the recent BD100 report 69% of respondents expect to see more agency consolidation in the next 12 months.

With more agencies grappling for less, the need to be distinctive is paramount. What do you stand for as an agency? What’s your strategic approach? How do you get to a great creative solution that wins hearts and minds? Clients are not so much looking for a finished product in a pitch but are instead wanting to see who you are as an agency, how you got to a solution and what you’re capable of. Take them on a journey, and not a rehearsed one.

The journey needs to show them how you interact as a team, how you respond to their questions, how you present ideas and what makes you tick. As a new business community, the more we can do to peel back the layers and show clients who we really are as agencies, the more successful we’ll be. For this reason, we moved away from pitching clients with PPT sides at Wunderman Thompson. We want proper interactions that gain proper results.

Recently we found ourselves pitching on a wall in the middle of our agency while eating burgers and chips with BT Sport. We prefer workshopping with clients to get to a collaborative solution, rather than talking at them for two hours and trying to read their minds.

Bringing your agency’s personality across and being distinctive shouldn’t be restricted to how we communicate through the new business process. We’ve got to walk the walk and look at the creative output. Clients want to do more with less, but we shouldn’t be frightened of this. With more clients moving to engagement-driven briefs we need to create distinctive ideas that cut through regardless of channel.

The downfall would be to think of creativity as a TV ad, OOH poster or activation that hits headlines for a day. As we’ve seen with BT Sport, the move to a media-neutral idea is becoming more popular. Dave Stratton, BT Sport’s brand and performance director said of agencies at this year’s Pitch Perfect, “While we ask for ideas - we still get scripts." It sounds so simple but read the brief and don’t instinctively fall to a format you know and love. Make sure it hits the engagement model needed and don’t be afraid to try something that reflects who you are as an agency and shows why you are the right partner.

Our approach at Wunderman Thompson of blending creative, data and tech paid off with BT Sport. We released an AI-created Champion’s League script titled Unscripted which we released to numerous football influencers. The campaign sparked a national conversation that attracted over a million impressions - before we’d even spent a penny in media.

As we move into 2020, new business folk face a familiar challenge: keeping up with the constant rapid change. But one thing that doesn’t change is the value of being distinctive. It’s vital to take a look at who you are as an agency, why are you unique in the marketplace, and bring that to life through everything you do. From the new business process right through to the creative output. It’s not all change. Being distinctive is a constant that must not be forgotten.

Helen Lee is the marketing and new business director at Wunderman Thompson as named Business Developer of the Year recently in the BD100 list.

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