As I take on the role of Chair at the ICA, its purpose has never been clearer. The body must be the place where INNOVATION reigns, it must be the place that helps the industry attract INNOVATORS, it must be the place where clients turn to find agencies that represent progressive thinking.
Innovate or die
There’s no time to waste in addressing this. We must act now. That’s because the Canadian advertising industry has been under degenerative pressure for decades with major changes continuing to unfold at a rapid rate. We do need to look forward and consider the challenge from evolving platforms, the consultancy firms, and address the pressure on margins, technological disruption, and the rising role of procurement in commoditizing the industry. All this has had a major impact, and fundamentally altered the perception of the industry in the eyes of all stakeholders. It’s also a case of evolving our own approach as an industry - the holding companies have focused on delivering margins of 20 per cent while the quality of some of the creative work has diminished substantially. While it’s been the right time to address this for the past ten years, it’s still not too late to evolve our market and our skillsets. After all, WPP is talking about hiring more than 1,000 creative people to refocus on ideas.
The value of ideas That’s long overdue because gone are the invaluable top-to–top relationships, the ability and desire to understand the clients’ businesses, the view that communication initiatives can change the path of a business and that NEW IDEAS are the fuel to success. We can all name those companies whose value was exponentially driven by innovation: Apple; Nike; Amazon; Google; P&G; Rogers; Bell; Telus; Spotify; and Tesla to name a few. It’s time to re-establish the essential truth that ideas driven by insight and innovation have always been the pillars of success for businesses. It’s encouraging to see agencies who understand that we are capable of advancing our thinking and our processes. The likes of Anomaly and Droga5, and networks such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Wieden + Kennedy, are certainly world class. And we can also look to other industries for help in moving forward. There’s a lot of great thinking in the gaming world, for instance, in terms of developing games and understanding the psychology of the audience and building structures and all sorts of development models to fit. Above all, the ICA’s role is to drag the industry out of the commoditized, time sheet-driven, business model towards one based on VALUE CREATION IGNITED BY INNOVATION.
A seat in the C-suite
We must emphasize the power of this premise to win a seat in the C-suite. Thriving companies have relied on our industry for new and risky thinking to fuel this growth, and there are also many examples of industries that do not exist or have faded from prominence because they were risk averse.
Accountability is becoming an increasingly powerful tool in persuading clients to invest in that innovation. Looking at every client I now work with, I’d be hard pressed to identify one where we aren’t expected to provide
ROI based on pre-determined metrics.
It’s become very obvious that agencies able to deliver on this are the most likely to succeed.
Taking on the Chair role, after spending the last seven or eight years as an ICA board member, I have lots of good work to build on. Scott Knox, the ICA’s President & CEO, has done a great job, through initiatives such as the IDEA Summit, in showing that a better understanding of issues around inclusivity, equality and diversity can deliver innovation and better creativity, and therefore improved results.
Now the task is all about focus and providing tangible delivery to agency businesses, most importantly by demonstrating value for members and fundamentally helping them to look for innovation to make our industry more profitable. Our job is to introduce the membership to new thinking and to encourage them to participate so that we become better as a group, and as individual agencies, at inspiring action on innovation. I hope you’ll join us on this journey, it promises to be an exciting ride.