The Update: How agencies are transforming to retain their right to win
In this episode of The Update, Google’s VP of Agency and Brand Solutions Tara Walpert Levy talks to Marla Kaplowitz, president and CEO of the 4A’s. They discuss why marketing partners are more important than ever, and what agencies are doing to deliver even more value to their clients.
MARLA: What agencies have been able to do
is leverage thinking across a number of different clients
and the great thing about agencies, I would say, this is like...
they just figure it out.
So, whether it was production
or any sort of solution that needed to be done,
they just came together.
TARA: In this episode of The Update
I speak with Marla Kaplowitz
about why marketing partners
are more important than ever
and what agencies are doing to deliver
even more value to their clients.
I’m curious; you've talked before about the pandemic basically being a hyper catalyst
for helping agencies to focus on what they do best
which is really, solving clients' business problems.
So, curious what you're seeing there...
how that's coming to life?
MARLA: So, I see it coming to life in a few ways.
The first is: it's really improved the client agency relationship.
You don't have to focus on the minutiae.
You're focusing on the most important problems
of the day, and what are the strategic business challenges
in ways that agencies can be provocative
and really help marketers embrace the risk-taking
to really kind of get through these crises.
The next area is new business.
People had to suddenly do virtual pitching but it's also streamlined the number of meetings.
There’ve been far too much dragging out of new business pitches
and let's focus on what's most important in understanding
the dynamic of the partnership
that could come to life as well as the work that can be delivered.
And then, the last is in the area of work
in terms of working remotely
streamlining the way that it gets done.
We now also have the access to greater talent
so you don't have to focus on geography, and that opens up
the possibilities for diversity, equity and inclusion,
not just in terms of your work environment,
but also your work product.
TARA: One of the biggest challenges is, as you mentioned, the incredible volatility
in the advertiser and agency situation, which is a little bit unlike
occasionally in the past when people rose and fell together.
What are you hearing from agencies?
What's the spectrum?
What do they want your help with?
MARLA: Yeah. I mean they have wanted our help.
So if you go back to the beginning with COVID,
they immediately wanted our help with
what do we do?
What is the kind of message that we should be putting out?
So, we did some research early on.
almost every week we were doing research
to kind of gauge consumers
and where the sentiment was around
as they were working with marketers.
We also had agencies trying to figure out
what is this remote working look like?
What kind of policies need to be put in place?
So, we were helping them understand not only what the 4A’s was doing,
but also connecting our community
and making sure that we had people sharing.
This has been a moment where people have focused on collaboration over competition.
No one is trying to go it alone.
Everyone is trying to support one another.
I think that's so critical, especially when we talk about DE&I.
TARA: One of the things that we hear people talking about
is the doubling down on marketing as a profit driver
versus a cost centre,
and the need to ensure greater confidence
in the economic return on their spend.
What are you seeing in this regard?
Are you seeing any adjustment
in terms of how people plan and buy during this crisis
in order to address that issue?
MARLA: So, I've never looked at marketing as a cost.
I've always looked at it as an investment.
I think the challenge has been for
companies – and typically people who are not in the marketing
function – viewing it that way.
So, there's always been this need to demonstrate results.
What's the ROI?
The problem over, I would say, the last call it 10 years and especially the last
several years, is that the focus
continues to get shorter and shorter
and no one is focused on the long-term.
So if you're a public company, you've got quarterly results you have to deliver on.
If you are a retail business, you are looking at daily receipts.
So this hyper focus on the short term
has taken away what marketing really does
and that is about building over time.
I do see that this crisis, these crises,
have allowed the C-Suite in
most companies to focus in on the CMO and the role of the CMO
because marketing is front and centre right now,
and I do hope that that shifts the perception
for the non-marketing functions in organisations.
TARA: What do you think are the biggest areas
that agencies need to prioritise accelerating in
to really support their clients
and make the most of this particular moment?
MARLA: There's new habits that have been created.
There's new skills that are needed and so we need to lean in
the advantage there is,
how do they make sure that they're helping the client
lead the thinking? How can they work with them
to partner with them on their goals;
to get there, but to make that happen quickly?
So, the work has many... many have been behind
so they need that external perspective
and there are many studies that have been done showing that
if you go it alone,
it will take you much longer
than if you bring in external partners.
and that is the advantage
and agencies do have proven ways of delivering that work
and will continue to support marketers in that journey
and the digitisation of that customer experience.
So the companies that had been prepared,
and had been doing the digital transformation work,
and really making sure that they had digitised
their entire customer journey,
their supply chain,
were well prepared.
There are many that are catching up right now.
And that's also an area where agencies can help support that.
New business really pivoted
and you could see how that's been streamlined
and I hope that that's here to stay.
TARA: DEI has been a priority for Google for quite some time
and the good news is I think we are making progress,
but the challenge is that it hasn't been anywhere near the pace
any of us hoped
and so this is a moment of great acceleration.
So, you've highlighted the call to the industry
to use this moment to improve diversity and inclusion
and specifically, I think, racial injustice and we share your passion for that.
What do you think?
Is this an opportunity?
Is it a challenge?
What is the 4A’s doing to move this forward?
MARLA: I think it's been a challenge for a while
and now it's a real opportunity
to true action
and that has to be focused on accountability.
So the 4A’s has always been supporting members
in trying to drive those, whether it's the work of our foundation
and MAIP, our Multicultural Advertising Intern Program,
that's been around for 47 years.
The 4A's announced a partnership
with 600 and Rising, which are 600... over 600 Black professionals
within agencies that have asked for what we view as 12 very basic actions
that focus on accountability and transparency.
And we've always tried to support our members
in making sure that they can
provide guidance and move forward when it comes to diversity,
equity and inclusion.
it is more important than ever that we get this right.
TARA: Well, I feel inspired by the insights
and motivation that you're sharing
and hopefully our audience does too.
Do you have any final thoughts for the group?
MARLA: Yeah. I think we've talked so much about we're in this
significant moment of change.
2020 will be remembered
for a lot of things and we're only halfway through.
I just would really urge everyone to use this moment
as who you are as an individual
as a leader, on how you can support the change
that you want to see, not only in your community
but in your organisation.
tremendous time of transformation and that can be really exciting
as long as you view it in a positive way.