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Is it time for agencies to change to a new ‘suit’ in the evolving world?

The role of the suit continues to become more and more challenging

Tutiya Disphanurat, managing director at FCB Bangkok & Mullen Lowe Bangkok (both affiliated companies under YDM Thailand), makes a case for the evolving face of the ‘suit’ in the fast-changing advertising agency structure.

In recent years, agency business has become more and more dynamic, which has resulted in more client servicing units, such as KOLs (key opinion leaders), influencers, online media, and data and technology. With this changing reality, a big challenge that integrated agencies are facing is around hiring and grooming an account management team that is versatile enough – and curious enough – to respond to this business expansion.

The evolving role of account management

The role of account management has never changed, so far at least. In the big picture, a ‘suit’ is expected to hunt business, work on that business, talk business and close the business for an agency. However, when the agency’s business is diffused into many disciplines, the role gets unavoidably widened and also brings in new challenges. Some agencies have their own digital department with specialist account managers, but there is still clearly a duplication of roles.

The talent needs have changed

From a talent point of view, online and offline cannot be separated anymore. Building an organization chart like in the old days no longer works. More and more accounts need an account manager who has the skill and capability to work both offline and online. The pandemic highlighted the importance of digital and focused our ecosystem up to the stage of purchase and repurchase.

Need of the hour: suits with a ‘helicopter view’

To match the evolving needs, teams need ‘helicopter view’ training. The more they deep dive into each specific discipline, the higher the risk of losing the big picture focus. An agency that has many services under one roof tends to focus on expanding its organic business through its current accounts rather than harvesting a new one. This is why the need of the hour is a ‘suit’ who can see the big picture, connect the dots and draw the business in.

Realities of the Thai market

In Thailand, not many agencies can offer one total solution. Newborn agencies are entering this white space for specific services and agencies that specialize in only one skill set, such as influencer marketing, media or data marketing. These agencies are service-oriented, not brand management-based, and so the holistic account manager role is not needed in the same way as in an integrated agency.

Workaround to the complex challenges

To tackle the fast-moving client needs, either project specialists could be allotted within each servicing team, or the account management team could be placed at the center of all activated services. Either way, there would need to be some changes brought about.

Re-looking at the learning needs: Versatility is the key to unlocking problems. From account executive to business director, all must be required to learn and equip themselves on offline to online disciplines – both horizontally to connect the business opportunities and vertically to work and execute day-to-day campaigns.

Reorienting the team divisions: This gives an area of focus to the staff along with clear roles with the brand and business orientation. The brand and business team should focus more on client relationships, profit and loss analysis, agency operation and new business expansion, while the execution team would help bring focus on the quality of work, turnaround time, campaign effectiveness and connectivity plans.

All these changes and adaptations at agencies in the new world won’t immediately result in vividly clear results. What would also need to be considered is an agency’s economic position to adjust the organization structure, client expectations and preferences for having a ‘SPOC’ – the single point of contact across all disciplines and, finally, the current readiness of the future-primed ‘Suit Team’.

The role of the suit continues to become more and more challenging. Coping with the dynamism of fragmented marketing communications is a rare skill, and never before has it been so crucial to invest in the time and training to keep and grow our talented people.

Tutiya Disphanurat is the managing director at FCB Bangkok & Mullen Lowe Bangkok (both affiliated companies under YDM Thailand).

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