Nick Brien CEO, Americas, Dentsu Aegis Network took the industry to task Monday at a 4As gathering in Washington, chastising media agencies for lagging behind in a fast-changing marketing landscape.
“There has been a fundamental shift in the balance of power" between brands and consumers, Brien said. "It has shifted and we are now in a consumer led world."
And agencies aren’t responding well, Brien asserted. “We are too passive. We are too slow to change. We have legacy structures and relationships. We are output-focused versus outcomes. We have an inefficient value proposition among a fragmented industry. We also are losing our creative edge.”
Consumers expect brands to be more and mean more, said Brien, citing research that shows 78% of consumers expect brands to bring social change. "Our challenge, collectively, is how do we live up to the greater expectations of consumers?"
Brien shared the stage with peers Mat Baxter, global CEO, Initiative; Tim Castree, CEO, North America, GroupM; Erin Matts, CEO, Hearts & Science; and Jodi Robinson, president, Digitas North America to debate how to best address these issues facing media agencies.
Baxter, for his part, believes the single most important thing for the industry to address is trust, or the lack thereof. "Without that, everything is fanciful dreams," he says. “We need to move beyond mere lip service to regain trust because the things we are seeing in the wider industry, such as moving work in-house and bundling, are getting taken away from us because that trust is not there," says Baxter.
But Robinson points out that Digitas parent company Publicis Groupe was cleared in all 35 audits conducted by clients. "How can we move beyond that issue?" she asks.
Castree believes that trust will slowly return. But there are other pressing issues as well such as data and measurement and the development of new business models.
Matts added that there needs to be a broader educational program to teach consumers about advertising. "We can be a force for good and for change," says Matts.