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Agencies Agency Leadership

Agencies will thrive in 2024 by investing in talent and sustainability

By James Lawton-Hill, James Lawton-Hill

APS Group


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This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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January 11, 2024 | 8 min read

James Lawton-Hill of APS Group casts his eye over the challenges facing agencies for the year ahead. In the face of technological disruption, he says, smart leaders will continue to invest in people.

A man in a beanie and a demin jacket, dancing in what looks like a car park

Talent, sustainability and focus should be priorities of agencies in 2024 / Drew Dizzy Graham via Unsplash

From striking the balance between people and technology to environmental transparency, agencies are surrounded by a lot of trend noise and digital disruption which can make it difficult for leaders to stay focused.

But for agencies, one thing is constant: people are at the heart of our business and it’s their creativity and talent that will drive us forward to stay ahead of the competition. Staying focused on our strengths and using emerging technologies wisely will help us to spot the right opportunities for growth this year.

In a world where everyone is striving to be kinder to their neighbors and the planet but many businesses are still only paying lip service to their ESG goals, the future deserves commitment to actions with real impact.

Always investing in talent

Agencies are always trying to strike the perfect balance between attracting and retaining top creative talent alongside implementing new technology that drives efficiency for clients. It’s a constantly evolving dance that needs careful consideration, but an agency full of motivated, inspired, and enthusiastic people is still what makes brands want to work with you.

Investing in talent is, and always will be, key to any agency offering. And now, supporting hybrid and flexible working models is becoming the norm. Encouraging and supporting entrepreneurism is key here; we have side hustles across our team ranging from honey and candle making to comic book design.

Flexible working enables and encourages a range of wider skill sets that can be brought into agency life. Flexible working patterns that facilitate diverse activities equal a happy, engaged workforce and help us retain valuable talent.

Growing it global, keeping it local

Connecting global teams and partnerships is key to delivering effective growth, especially for global clients. Taking advantage of offshore partnerships when you need to scale or bringing in specialist skill sets beyond your core team is important.

Localized supply chains are an important focus too – given current global turmoil, near-shoring can allow you to turn projects around faster.

Sustainability (but never greenwashing)

Agencies must learn to be savvier about measuring and reporting on their sustainability impact – from a digital perspective just as much as a physical.

To facilitate this, always keep an eye out for new tools and reports to help highlight to clients any given environmental impact and what can be offset. Consumers are becoming suspicious of ‘green’ credentials. We must steer clients towards ESG achievements with genuine impact.

Ethical AI, for us and our clients

AI will continue to be a big focus in 2024; getting the right balance between people and tech will be key.

AI can save time and money and help scale at pace, but this should never be at the expense of quality. We tend to see it as an enabler, freeing up the time consumed by carrying out large-scale repetitive tasks and allowing creative talents to focus on the work they really enjoy.

Staying on track amid the explosion of new tech is quite a challenge, but a manageable one. Set up working groups to explore, test, and trial new AI tech aligned to your offering, and share that knowledge with your clients.

New legislation doesn’t need to be restrictive

AI legislation is undoubtedly coming soon, with businesses likely needing to document their systems’ capabilities, and demonstrate how they will mitigate risks and undergo external audits.

Legislation is constantly evolving, especially across the digital landscape. For example, the new European Accessibility Act, focused largely on digital products and services, will see brands needing their websites to comply with accessibility guidelines that cover everything from content to design. See these changes as opportunities to research and explore with our clients to ensure they are at the forefront of any changes; they don’t need to be perceived unfavorably or as hindering our creativity.

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Doing what we do well

With service lines, it’s key to not try and be everything to everyone. As tempting as this can be, it is a distraction which will lead you astray. Focus on your core offering, which is what you make your name for, and work with specialist partners to expand any niche service lines if you need to. This can be hard when combining different cultures and approaches, but it can also help you to focus on what you do best.

Joining the dots…

Max Ehrmann’s famous advice to “go placidly amidst the noise and haste” is more pertinent today than ever. Staying focused in all the noise, especially that created around technology and trends, is becoming a trend in itself. This is where sticking to the plan is so important, which means staying focused on your strategy while successfully managing distractions.

Growing and looking after your creative workforce must be another core focus. Flexibility is key to the future of work, as is providing support and training, and giving our people the freedom to explore and discover talents within and outside their roles. This increases employee engagement and will benefit your business in other ways.

Agencies Agency Leadership

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APS Group

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