Change is the only constant: most conversations at the Spikes Asia 2011 held in Singapore from September 18-20, 2011 revolved around that one fact. Global leaders acknowledged that the next five years would see the consumer, and all dynamics surrounding the consumer, change a lot faster than anything witnessed in the last five decades.
Reiterating that technology was one of the key drivers of change, John Wren, CEO, Omnicom observed, “There is measurability in communication today and in the road ahead that would play a very important part on how we approach this business.” Wren also spoke of the changing perception of markets such as Asia and the fact that one-size-fits-all did not apply to this market. He said, “You can't come from New York and do what you did there, in Asia. What this also means is that the opportunities here are extraordinary.”
An interesting aspect was that despite all changes, the guiding principles for players such as Omnicom didn’t change. For Wren, at the centre of everything Omnicom offered, was the focus People, Product and Profit.
But Wren also said that with changing times came a cautious optimism, and a deficit of leadership in some parts of the world. He explained, “While there with healthy signs of recovery and I am optimistic on the road forward, I am still concerned and like to see more leadership in troubled markets.”
Jean-Yves Naouri, COO, Publicis Groupe and Executive Chairman, Publicis Worldwide, also expressed surprise that despite being an industry that qualified itself as creative and innovative, communication professionals continued to use the same approach. He said, “It is time we found a new way to work and a new way to approach the way we work with clients. For a brand to exist, it has to be very different”
A common in advertisers today was one strong ambition, that of being recognised and showing that they can build, protect and sustain some kind of leadership. Naouri posed the question, “Today's world is becoming more demanding and advertisers are not just trying to share the market but own it. How do we protect and help our clients get bigger?”
The acceleration of change was seen in competition, economy, geography, technology, media and audience and social beliefs. He cautioned, “If you don't lead change, change will lead you. There is an obligation for leaders that they cannot expect to only differentiate themselves from the crowd, but they are expected to lead those changes.”
To simplify, three questions could throw light on how to lead a change. First was to identify a gap and know the “change” to lead. The next was to define a role and the third step was to design the idea that would enable the change.
If change was one repeated word at the forum, the other two were challenge and caution. The CAAAA pointed out the threat of staying an “agency”
Sundar Swamy highlighted the changes over time, and stated candidly that agencies were in trouble. From the advent of media and digital growth to the constant worry of lower compensation, the working manner of listed holding companies, the inability for the industry to retain talent, the indiscriminate pitching that was witnessed to disintermediation and other such instances.
The CAAAA advised dropping the word ‘agency’ for Advisor or Advocate, so that the true nation of the profession was highlighted. Perhaps, the AAAI President, Nagesh Alai, summed it best when he said, “We would be what we think we are, and if we think ourselves to be agents, then what is what we would be. If we talk, walk and breathe consumer insights, brand insights and media insights, then marketers cannot do without us.”