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Cannes 2007: Debate on reinventing agency model

By , agencyfaqs!, Cannes | In Advertising | June 23, 2007
At the Debussy Hall in Cannes, the panel moderated by Scoot Donaton, publisher, 'Ad Age', discussed the need to reinvent the agency

Every traditional & #BANNER1 & # agency talks about the need to change, but the challenge is to steer the agency successfully in the new era. Till today, the agency business, starting from structures and compensation to process and output, is still built around the legacy model.

At the Debussy Hall in Cannes, Scoot Donaton, publisher, 'Ad Age', who was moderating the session, said he wanted to take the discussion beyond the philosophical level. He started off by asking whether the agency business still mattered to anyone.

Andrew Robertson, president and CEO, BBDO, who represents a large agency which has more than 1,200 clients, said that the agency is in the business of commercial content and that matters.

Robertson said agencies don't matter. What matters most is the work because it's the need of the business. And to deliver great work, agencies need to evolve.

When questioned about what he meant by great work, he replied, "Great work is that which changes people."

Jeff Goodby, co-chairman of Silverstein and Partners, a much smaller agency than BBDO, reacted, saying that it was not a great idea to define and divide an agency by media. He said, "There can't be an agency or team which says I am a television specialist or a digital specialist."

Goodby asserted that you do not need a specialist agency to deliver a great idea. According to him, a digital agency can have a great idea for television, while a traditional agency can do great work in the digital media.

Daniel Morel, chairman and CEO, Wunderman, was of the opinion that you need to deliver the message quickly, irrespective of the media. According to him, the days of long storytelling are gone as more people have less time. The ultimate motive is to convert into sales, and that's what it should be.

Robertson reacted strongly to this, and said that storytelling can never be over. He cited the example of the Harry Potter books, which people still like to read on paper at a time when tech is available and people are talking about saving paper to save trees. He said that this was because people are still interested in storytelling and tech can't change that.

Robertson also spoke about the need of behaviour-driven insight and craftsmanship to deliver great work; he said the role of the big agency is very important. He was of the opinion that because his agency had the top 20 creative professionals, he could deliver great work.

David Droga, creative chairman, Drogo5, who has always been a traditional agency guy and successfully metamorphosed a two man agency into a 40 man operation in just a year, strongly objected to Robertson's comments on the expertise of big agencies. He said, "As soon as there are lots of people, there is a formula."

Droga was very clear that he was not in the business of changing the industry, only his own agency. He said, "There has been no revolution in the advertising business. It has evolved gradually, and the benefit of smaller agencies is that it can create revolution."

Cannes 2007, complete coverage.