The Spikes Debate may not have seen raging arguments, but the discussion touched on the some of the most pressing issues between client and agency relations and of the business of advertising and communication. Re-creating the environment of Cannes Debate, Spikes Asia invited Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP, for a Spikes Debate and his panel included names such as Ken Mandel, Regional VP, Yahoo APAC; Lynn Gasper, Senior VP, Group Lifestyle Financing, OCBC Bank; Chris Schaumann, Head of Online Sales and Marketing, South East APAC, Nokia; and James Thompson, Regional Chief Marketing Officer, Diageo.
Amongst the first conversations, Thompson stated that advertisers today needed the big ideas more than ever before, given the competitive and cluttered world. He said, “Ideas are very important, give us those ideas that would help us work with all stakeholders.” He stated that at Diageo, where procurement played a very important role, the company had never bought an idea or an agency and they were not about to do that it. “But it is a commercial world, and we have to find a way where both agency and client can share the risk,” he added.
Gasper agreed with Thompson’s views on ideas, but at a company like OCBC, which was present only in 10 markets, the priority was not the size, but speed to market. She noted, “Sometimes local companies have a better sense of that than larger players. True that the approach would change in some ways once the bank gets into more markets, but you might be working with the smaller agencies looking for the right expertise at the right level.”
Sorrell quizzed his panel on the demands of online and offline communications, and where did the ‘independents’ fit in. Mandel replied to this saying that there shouldn’t be a situation of online versus other agencies. He said, “Consumers don't view their media consumption in that manner. They don’t decide ‘now I will consume online’. There are different touch points today and an agency should know how to get to them.”
Schaumann added here that ideas were just as valuable as the results they got. He did not shy away from stating that agencies and advertisers were behind consumers today. He said, “We are moving to fact-based decision making today. Social media, for instance, can give a lot more insights and information in a short span of time and that is one reason it has grown the way it has. The truth is that we are all playing catch up with consumers. The marketing ecosystem that is responding to, and engaging with, consumers is lagging behind.”
Continuing with the digital space conversations, another point that Mandel thought needed to be addressed for digital mediums to grow was that a barrier like language in terms of measurement or digital domain talent needed to be addressed. The mobile medium, too, was discussed, and needless to say Nokia representative Schaumann quoted data to reiterate that mobile was the medium of the future. He said, “Mobile medium presents the opportunity to engage with people, and mobile device would be the primary Internet device in the world. One of the challenges was the kind of format and capabilities of the devices itself. But phones that give you the full arsenal of location or technical requirements for other rich information are available in more numbers today.”
The panel ended the session with what drove them crazy in day-to-day agency relationships. Here, Thompson spoke of compromise and said, “It starts with clients. We are on time pressures, we are more demanding on speed and sometimes cost than we are on quality. I believe ideas are the only way for businesses to win and we should focus on them more.”
For Schaumann, it was the resistance to change that drove him crazy. He pointed out, “We are living in exponential times. Frequency of change is accelerating and we are going to witness a lot more change.” Gasper agreed with Thompson and added that talent was another issue that needed attention. She observed, “If we are trying to go to market quickly with good ideas, it all depends on people.” Mandel ended with the fact that while there were talks about ideas and innovations, no one had the patience to see it through and that it all came down to cost at the end of it.
The panel also discussed agency models, revisiting agency remuneration and the need for agencies to not stay with the advertisers, but stay ahead of the advertisers to help them navigate in the fast changing communication world.
Sorrell ended the discussion with what was it that leaders like these strived at a personal level as well. For Sorrell, it was persistence, speed and balance.
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