VivaKi's Tobaccowala Bugs 4As Attendees, Likens Agencies To 'Roaches'
NEW ORLEANS -- Throughout the day at the 4As conference here Monday, Adland was described in different ways by a parade of presenters. Some called
it persuasive and imaginative, others said it was effective.
Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at Publicis Groupe's VivaKi, added this colorful descriptor: “We are cockroaches.” He was referring to the agency’s resilience in the face of detractors and those who have predicted the industry’s demise by numerous would-be interlopers, such as Google, Amazon and others.
“You can crush us. You can call us ugly, but we scurry around” and somehow figure out a way to survive, Tobaccowala said.
He also provided a two-word response to those that predict that the industry will be disintermediated out of existence or replaced by consultants: “Absolute bullshit.”
Over the last four years, he said investors betting on the agency holding companies have done better than those who have placed their money on Google, Facebook and other Silicon Valley titans.
“Automation is not bad,” he said. The industry is using it to create sophisticated marketing tools to serve clients better. He called it “empowered marketing for an empowered age.” In short, he said, Silicon Valley is an “enabler,” that benefits Adland. Rather than think of tech giants as “frenemies,” as WPP CEO Martin Sorrell famously called Google, Tobaccowala said those firms should be considered friends worth forging big relationships with.
“We’re living in an open and networked world,” Tobaccowala said. “We are going to learn how to collaborate. We can’t win otherwise.” Agencies need to have “soft elbows” and “hard competencies. We need to be good at a few things,” to avoid offering “mounds and mounds of diluted mediocrity.”
While “change sucks,” it’s part of life in the marketing business, he said. A key part of change is embracing the views of the next generation of leaders. “They can see, too,” he said.
Agencies should be proactive and not reactive to change, Tobaccowala said. “We need to go radical and be audacious. We need to disrupt ourselves. Let’s surprise the world. Let’s be flying cockroaches.”