It was intriguing to see how the various agencies fought for attention at #canneslions this year. And it was not about the number of golden or silver lions they could conquer. The real battle was elsewhere, and way deeper. The real battle was about who could convince clients and prospects to be the ideal partner to win over the… online consumer.
While everyone on stage recognized the growing importance of online citizens/consumers, no one shared the golden recipe of how to win those consumers over exactly, nor what the philosopher’s stone was to keep them happy and brand loyal. There was a lot of talk about bravery, transparency, change, being different, moving border stones. But, let’s be honest, most professionals look at this new battlefield and scratch their heads. No one has cracked it yet: the ultimate code to tackle communities. Anyone saying they’ve done it a dozen times successfully, on a global level, is lying.
Digital agencies know websites, widgets, applications, micro-sites. Marketing agencies have the creative skills, the punch lines, the dazzling visuals. Media buying does magic with banners, SEO, profiling, and communication and PR agencies are familiar with content, dialogue and interaction. And all are eying the same stack of dollars on the table.
So which discipline owns it? Has the right pedigree? Deserves eternal glory and money in the bank? Can you win with apps alone? Will content by itself get you on the charts? Will a fabulous online movie turn your customer into a brand ambassador?
The uncomfortable truth behind the bleached smiles in Cannes is that no traditional agency, unchanged or on its own, can deal with the new challenges. Clusters of agencies, sharing top resources across disciplines, apparently do the trick. Agencies that dare to adapt their traditional way of working, proceeding, offering and hiring, and are rethinking their ways, do get results. The future will go to those who take risks, adapt, evolve and learn fast.
Cannes 2012 and onwards will prove some wise words of Darwin right: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.”