Question of the Week
Connected Talent: The Key to Thriving in a Fast-Changing World
Businesses and brands that deftly connect the right talent at the right moment will thrive, successfully navigating the complexities of a rapidly changing environment
11 December 2023
CMOs seek the convergence of simplicity and strength—a unity entwined with diversity -from their agency partners. But there's no one-size-fits-all team for today's unpredictable landscape. Instead, it will be those enterprises and brands that strategically align expertise or unearth unexpected talent at crucial junctures that will prosper.
But the challenge for agency groups lies in the delicate balance between consolidating efforts for efficiency within a unified network and incorporating diverse perspectives from multiple agencies. According to the Dentsu CMO 2023 report, marketers refuse to settle for binary choices, demanding a hybrid approach that combines the best of all worlds. Successfully meeting these demands requires agencies to adopt a flexible approach to talent and expertise, facilitated by technology, incentivised by appropriate financial models, and driven by a spirit of radical collaboration, generosity, and curiosity.
In this landscape, CMOs aspire to have the ease of a unified approach and the power derived from engaging with multiple agencies. Recognising that the perfect team for today's fast-changing world is elusive, businesses and brands that skilfully connect the right talent at the right moment or unearth unconventional talent to drive innovation will thrive in this complex and volatile environment.
We spoke to agency leaders to unpick how they are dealing with the challenges of connecting talent, all while adapting to the changing priorities between brand and performance preferences among CMOs.
Jessica Tamsedge, CEO, Dentsu Creative
Help me cut through, help me reach my audience, help me engage and persuade. CMOs haven’t changed their tune. Great ideas still start from anywhere; an insight, a story waiting to be told, an experience that brings joy, utility, entertainment. We simply have more ways to bring these to life now. Our Pocket Store work for KFC China started with their limited store footprint. We enlisted KFC consumers to create their own mobile store fronts, getting discounts for each sale they make. Social commerce to drive sales and build community. In the UK, our augmented gaming experience for Vodafone, Elf and Seek, started with a media behaviour. How do you cut through a sea of Christmas ads to meaningfully help audiences? Discounts and deals were unlocked across the UK through AR, effectively gamifying loyalty.
Great work starts with great ideas, but great execution is only possible if you have creative, media, data and technology experts all under one roof, playing for one team. This is what we mean by One Dentsu and is the reason we can get to work like this. CMOs don’t want to sacrifice expertise and diversity, they just want it to feel easy, accessible and possible.
Matt Holt, CSO, Digitas
As an agency with strategy, creative, data, media, and technology expertise under one roof, we are used to connecting diverse skillsets and mindsets in the pursuit of our client goals. I talk a lot about ‘getting the right people in the room at the right time’. To my knowledge, the agencies that prosper are the ones that are good at doing that systematically; at scale and with consistency.
To get the most out of the talent at their disposal, clients and agencies need to be clear on the problem or opportunity. Some of our clients come in with a preconceived idea of what they want. We like to take a step back and ask ‘why’ before ‘what’ – focusing on the cultural and commercial impact we’re all trying to create together. In other words, we start at the end and work back to the solution from there. And we’re fortunate that given our depth and breadth, we’re then able to combine our talent in new and unexpected ways to deliver the impact we’ve all committed to.
For instance, like the art and copy creative team model, we are increasingly buddying up communications and experience strategists as ‘strategy duos’ to tackle the brand and performance demands in one fell swoop. To deliver effectiveness and efficiency.
In my experience, clients want new and exciting solutions that more than pay for the agency partner they work with. That’s where it’s not about connecting 1+1 to make 2. Because (and forgive the basic maths reference) connection shouldn’t be about addition, but multiplication. Connecting talent to deliver a multiplier effect to clients’ businesses. Or - as we like to call it at Digitas - “The Unicorn Effect”.
Kate Rowlinson, CEO, EssenceMediacom
In today’s rapidly evolving media landscape, the prevailing trend is to streamline and consolidate to enhance efficiencies, foster the development of more integrated teams, and ensure more cost-efficient practices. At the same time, as media becomes more polarised and consumers are harder to reach in the new comms economy, the need for diverse perspectives is greater than ever if we want to help brands create campaigns that resonate with wider audiences. This means that we have to reinvent how we approach these briefs and actively embrace closer collaboration with different segments of our agency and also outside it – through partner agencies, creators and external experts.
Our recent win for Tesco’s influencer business exemplifies why agencies have to adapt and think outside the established roles if we want to continue to deliver breakthroughs for our clients. In our first joint pitch with Goat, we combined the unique expertise of both teams to create a proposal built on our individual strengths, resources, and industry knowledge that could be delivered with the simplicity that comes from working with one agency.
This shows that focusing on efficiency doesn’t need to impede innovation. Instead, streamlining our processes facilitates swift access for our teams to internal and external networks of experts to benefit from their views and insight. This allows us to optimise our resources but also gives us agility to generate more creative solutions in response to fast-changing client requirements.
Kate Howe, Executive Director, MSQ
I do think that it’s fair to say that in such an evolving and unpredictable landscape, there’s no single ‘perfect team’ that an agency or network can provide a marketer. But just because there’s not a perfect overall team, it doesn’t mean there’s not a perfect team for a particular phase of a project. The trick is then to ensure that once the specialists have tackled their part of the plan successfully, the team is evolved in an agile and timely way into a new ‘perfect team’ to take on the next part of the challenge.
I believe marketers deserve partners who can fulfil all these requirements – agencies that have the diversity of expertise in place to deliver truly specialist thinking, the unity so that people want to work together in collaborative ways, but also the flexibility and agility to dial capabilities up and down as a brief requires.
That’s how we’ve built the MSQ model. We don’t believe in generalists, we believe in offering deep expertise that’s joined-up – joined-up internally, but also highly collaborative with a client’s in-house team and their other partner agencies too.
We appreciate it’s hugely challenging for clients to balance these efficiencies. So our belief is then to ensure we have a really strong focus on effectiveness measurement frameworks. We talk to clients about measurement and their effectiveness goals at the beginning of every brief, so that we can then continually optimise and ensure that their budgets are working as hard as they possibly can.
Miranda Hipwell, CEO, Adam&EveDDB
We live in complex times and navigating them for brands isn’t straightforward. However, the pendulum swing from brand to performance and back again ad infinitum isn’t helpful - both are required at the right volume. The unlock to drive ultimate efficiency in any agency ecosystem is a brilliant creative idea that’s distinctive and potent enough to travel successfully across a diverse media landscape. Committing to this idea for a decent stretch is the next long-term efficiency and effectiveness play.
Andre Moreira, CCO at Studio X, Creative Partner at The & Partnership
It’s a good question… and one good answer is an Open-Source System.
Very much like the one WPP and The Coca-Cola Company authored together, to answer that same quandary — aptly named 'Open X'. Let's break it down...
'OPEN', in this instance, means not being restricted to one Agency brand but, instead, being able to pick the one most suited to solve the problem at hand... even if it means going outside the network (yes, really). And since old-school egos can have no place in such a system, wide-open minds are therefore essential... easier said than done.
'SOURCE', on the other hand, is about making sure that upstream of these teams sit small groups of highly knowledgeable and experienced leaders — on both TCCC and WPP side — making sure each brands' positioning, tone and objective doesn’t get lost in the creatively rich diversity of thinking flowing through the system.
Finally, all these elements are connected by one simple-ish process (you have to accept that complexity is part of the game nowadays) and one set of networked regional studios — built to creatively amplify all the ideas coming in from all the different agencies, through insight-driven integration, for extra local relevance. Thus, completing the 'SYSTEM'. Phew!