Maurice Levy dreams big.

by reports today that at the recent IAA Conference in New York, Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy and Dentsu Chairman-CEO Tateo Mataki told the International Advertising Association’s World Congress that advertising agencies need to create and adapt a new business model in order to stay relevant to their clients in the brave new world of consumer brand interaction.

[Mataki] “The business model in which the agency’s sole function is to create advertising and buy media is no longer viable,” he said. “We need a new model. We need to develop relationships where both parties share risks and rewards equally. Rather than just accepting assignments, we must be proactive. To manage change, we must take risks.”

I think Mataki gets it – agencies must come up with fresher, more creative ideas to reach that post-cynical consumer. Not neccesarily fresher creative messaging, but creative targeting, and this includes the roles of media, research and respecting the presence of marketing strategy provided by clients who are on the same page. The riskier, the better.

Levy, however, although he admits it’s near broken, doesn’t seem to really think the old model of advertising is all that bad. In his mind, the creative message is still the most important piece, and besides, he would rather change the clients.

Still he cautioned that the agency will increasingly look at creative that doesn’t just talk to a consumer, but enables interaction between consumers and marketers…He suggested the change will give rise to a new golden age of media where walls and silos will come tumbling down and creative is ultimate, but where services provided by agencies may have more value that physical assets. …”To build that new model, we need visionary clients not led by procurement and number crunchers, but people who can understand and appreciate the sheer value of our work, our ideas.

Creative is ultimate? Sure, the silos can come down between departments but everything still takes a back seat to the message and how that message is crafted to speak to the consumer. How is that different from the attitudes of most agencies now? And wouldn’t we all like to have visionary clients who aren’t worried about the bottom line? I mean, jeez, wouldn’t it be nice if the clients would all just shut up and let us do whatever we wanted to promoted their products instead of killing our creative spirit with concerns about things like MONEY and EFFICIENCY?

Maybe this is a prime example of the large scale, stereotypical difference between the Japanese and the French. Take risks, embrace and get ahead of change in the industry, working together, or whine about how clients need to appreciate your creative vision more, relax and turn over their pocketbooks.

And then there’s the American point of view, possibly the most salient of the bunch. Chuck Brymer, president-CEO of Omnicom Group’s DDB Worldwide, thinks agencies need to change their entire mentality because of how technology has changed consumer interaction.

…technology that allows consumers to communicate with each other increasingly makes consumers behave much like swarms. In this scenario, advertising becomes a two-track challenge of not only influencing the overall herd, but also influencing swarm behavior.

“In the past, we’ve always seen the big eat the small. In the new knowledge-based economy, the fast eats the slow,” he said. “Speed is the new big.”

Now there’s an idea. Acknowledge the speed with which information travels from brand to consumer and back to brand, change the way you approach the route of that information, and you may just be able to stay ahead of it. Brymer offers solutions, not just ideas. Don’t dream it, just do it. A slogan made in America, after all.

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