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Agencies should collaborate with digital experts to achieve client goals: ad:tech keynote

Agencies should collaborate with digital experts t

Kristi VandenBosch is CEO of Publicis & Hal Riney

SAN FRANCISCO – Publicis & Hal Riney’s top executive said that the advertising agency business is experiencing a turbulent sea change as digital companies move upstream and offline while traditional agencies “get digital.”

The hyper-competitive agency landscape has lead to a lack of collaboration, with agencies reluctant to cede credit for a successful campaign. Agencies could benefit from partnering with companies that understand digital channels such as social media and mobile, areas that may be weak spots for traditional agencies.

“This isn’t a battle of leadership or even of control, but of credit,” said Kristi VandenBosch, CEO of Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco. “It’s about credit, saying ‘I made this,’ which is why agencies create really showy digital spots to no end.

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“You can be open-source, you can know what you don’t know, you can collaborate, and it doesn’t make you a smaller agency, it makes you a better one,” she said. “For agencies these days, true leadership means the ability not to lead, to do what you do brilliantly and surround yourself with people that do other things more brilliantly than you do.

“From print to TV to digital design and mobile, if a brand says ‘I want you to think about every part of our business,’ that is the highest responsibility you can be entrusted with as a client.”

Publicis Groupe is a French multinational advertising agency and communications company. It is one of the big four global advertising holding companies.

Publicis clients include the Coca-Cola Co., Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal, Nestle, Whirlpool, Beck’s beer, LG, Siemens, Telefónica and Pernod Ricard.

Publicis & Hal Riney is an American advertising agency whose clients include Hewlett-Packard, Saturn, Sprint, Perrier, Alamo Rent A Car and US Cellular.

Agency collaboration more important than expertise
Ms. VandenBosch used the systems-versus-objects analogy to describe the difference in thinking between traditional agencies and the best digital agencies.

“In software design, objects are independent, stand-alone entities, while systems tie all of the objects together to form a coherent whole,” Ms. VandenBosch said. “Traditional agencies create objects, lovely things that are self-contained, while digital people think in systems, always thinking about how actions connect to one another.”

As an example of object thinking, Ms. VandenBosch showed the following ad created by rival agency BBH for its client Mentos:


“They came up with a great concept, but they didn’t answer the question ‘What happens next?’” Ms. VandenBosch said. “All they did was upload a series of videos to YouTube, expecting them to spread virally, but people upload 24 hours of content to YouTube every minute.

“There was no system behind the object, no plan for what happens next and what that would mean for Mentos,” she said. “It’s a beautiful object without a system.”

Ms. VandenBosch admitted that her own company was guilty of the same offense with the following US Cellular ad:


“US Cellular subscribers get all incoming calls, texts and pix free, and so for this campaign we included real phone numbers so that people who saw the ad could call these real people and say, talk about sandwiches with Monte,” Ms. VandenBosch said. “And then what happens?

“We had just made a really great ad, but we didn’t follow through with a Facebook fan page or a mobile app or something to achieve sustained consumer engagement with US Cellular,” she said. “It’s not about creating campaigns to prove that you get digital, you’re creating something that can make a difference for a brand.”

Ms. VandenBosch said that the critical question is not just dealing with systems and objects, but also what we do about this battle for leadership among agencies.

“Digital agencies are more adept at cross-platform thinking and execution, while traditional agencies are better at storytelling,” Ms. VandenBosch said. “Successful execution is only possible if you bridge systems and objects and put the battles for credit aside.

“If someone suggests a better way, it’s not a failure, it’s an invitation to be great,” she said. “Providing the development coordinator has a communications medium at least as good as the Internet, and knows how to lead without coercion, many heads are inevitably better than one.”

Related content: Advertising agencies, Publicis Group, Publicis and Hal Riney, Kristi VandenBosch, ad agencies, advertising agencies, adtech, adtech San Francisco, adtech 2010, mobile advertising, mobile marketing, mobile

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