The 3 C’s at the Foundation of Successful Agencies
Declining ad spend and talent gaps have made it a daunting time in the digital advertising industry, which has historically been rife with turnover even in the best of times.
Rather than doubling down on endless hours of work and cutthroat culture, all players in the digital media ecosystem can persist by being more open, empathetic, and helpful.
Here are three C’s (and no, we’re not talking about third-party cookies!) to focus on to position your agency for long-term success.
The reflex to overcorrect for the latitude many employers gave employees during the early days of the pandemic is driving those same workers out the door. During the first six months of the Great Resignation, toxic culture was the strongest predictor of attrition—10.4 times more likely than compensation, according to research by MIT Sloan School of Management and Revelio Labs.
The main ingredients of toxic cultures identified were failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior. On the contrary, companies with a reputation for a healthy culture experienced lower-than-average turnover during this same time period.
Even if they don’t have a truly toxic culture, agencies are notorious for stressful environments, so we can all do some extra work to give workplace culture a boost. There needs to be a “We’re all on the same team” mentality without referring to your team as a “family” which also turns people off because, let’s face it, you’re not family. There needs to be an understanding and appreciation of who people are outside of work, making accommodations for what they need to not only do their best work but also to live their best lives.
A culture in which people have autonomy, can work flexibly—yes, even from home sometimes—and practice accountability in everything from sharing information to meeting deadlines is how you build a workplace in which people feel like and are treated like adults. Additional strategies the MIT Sloan research highlighted included providing opportunities for lateral job moves and sponsoring corporate social events.
Agencies have feared automation for years. As media-buying technologies and platforms have become smarter and more efficient, automation has indeed made components of our jobs unnecessary. But that’s no reason to roll over and wait for the slow death of our craft. Automation actually helps during times of talent shortage. More than three-quarters of marketers are relieved to use more digital tools because it allows more time to focus on other priorities. For agency models, this means prioritizing client work that carries greater strategic value.
This brings us to the point: Automation can be a catalyst for agencies to adopt a more consultative approach with their brand clients. This elevates agencies from their media-buyer pigeonhole to the much stronger role of strategic advisor, something that is a much higher margin and can’t be automated. The opportunities for consulting are virtually endless, such as helping brand clients pinpoint strategic capabilities that will help them better compete in the market and even co-developing products together.
Coopetition is much like it sounds—cooperating with a competitor in the name of driving business growth, curbing costs, and spurring innovation. This has already played out before in the digital media supply chain in the form of data co-ops, which happen when businesses share anonymized first-party data with each other to learn more about their customers and find prospects like them. Data co-ops still exist today and have renewed applicability in an era of dwindling data availability and targeting ability due to new privacy laws and browser changes.
But it’s not just the buy side that can take advantage of data sharing to future-proof their businesses. Publishers, too, can enhance their vitality and value by monetizing their data as a community to protect their greatest asset, especially as advertisers lose the ability to target users at scale on any connected device. This is how they can compete with the walled garden platforms that dominate the industry because of their ability to collect massive amounts of data. As no single publisher is likely to ever come close to the data these platforms have, pooling their information with other publishers can help them achieve larger reach and scale which, in turn, can increase the flow of advertising dollars.
Times may be tough, and they might get even tougher, but we’re an industry that’s seen it all before. By focusing on company culture, taking a more consultative approach, and being open to friendly collaboration with competitors facing similar challenges, we can lift up the entire industry.
Katie Risch is CMO of Basis Technologies.