I'm not sure what agency Doug Ray has been working in all this time...oh wait, he's president of product and innovation over at Dentsu Aegis. Anyway, he's out with one of those thinly veiled self-promotional pieces over at AdWeek (hey, nothing against AdWeek...it's the way of things these days) entitled 4 Traits Every Modern Media Agency Executive Absolutely Has to Have.
Not, "Has to Have." No. "Absolutely Has to Have"
Thing is, those traits have been resident within ad agencies for, well, ever. So what are these mysterious new traits every modern agency executive absolutely must have? Curiosity, ability to inspire innovation, multifaceted and act as partner to clients.
Ray suggests that the curiosity element has a great deal to do with the ever changing media landscape that's been thrust upon us over the past 20 years or so. He's right but even back in the day when TV, radio, magazine and newspapers ruled the landscape, there was indeed a need for -- and a propensity to possess -- curiosity in the sense that given a fairly set selection of pathways to take, the curious mind always came up with a better solution. After all, there were only so many choices and one had to possess a certain curiosity that would engender new and different ways of thinking about the same four or five media channels that used to rule the landscape.
And that dovetails into Ray's next "must have" trait; innovation. I'd argue that given a smaller set of viable possibilities an ad agency had at their disposal to get the word out for their clients back in the day, a greatly increased sense of inspiration to innovate was necessary. Oh sure, you could slap together a few ads and place them in 4-5 media channels and then wait 3 months to perform your post-buy analysis. Or you could work with media outlets to develop innovative on- and off-air promotions that accomplished far more for the client than amassing a few hundred GRPs.
Maybe it's because, for the most part, I worked for smaller agencies. Maybe it was because I was naturally interested in strategic and tactical elements outside of my main purview. But when I read that Ray says today's ad execs must be multifaceted, it's sort of like he's saying back in the day ad execs were a bunch of drones (not the flying kind) stuck in a box with nary a desire to entertain any kind of thought outside that box. Now, sure, there's a hell of a lot more to deal with in today's ad world than there was 10, 20 and 30 years ago but that doesn't mean that back in the day, media people didn't think like creative people or creative people didn't think like media people. Or that agencies weren't a bastion of innovation for the brand on which they worked.
As for being a true partner to your client, well any agency exec who isn't, no matter what era they are from, is just an order-taking idiot.
Like I said, I’m not sure what's going on with Ray over at Dentsu, but back in the day I always thought about the client's business, not just their advertising needs. Everything we did was about bettering the bottom line for the client, because you know what? Nothing else matters. If you aren't a true partner to the client, if you don't think like the client, if you don't realize that the only thing that matters in bettering the client's business then you simply don't get it. And you weren't doing your job.
Sure, things are different than they were 20 years ago but the same basic elements are still in place. It is and always has been about doing what will positively affect the client's bottom line. Nothing else matters.