The Chemistry of a Resilient Agency

Marla Kaplowitz 4As

How are advertising agencies dealing with the crisis? What are clients demanding? Is the industry prepared to adapt to these changes? These are some of the recurring questions that exist today, in an uncertain landscape.

And who better to help us uncover some answers than Marla Kaplowitz, with over 30 years of experience in marketing and communications, President and CEO of 4As, former CEO of BBB National Programs, CEO of the North American MEC, Subsidiary of GroupM and WPP, and Vice President of MediaVest. Truly a woman to have in your sights.

Kaplowitz recognizes that all areas have suffered greatly, but the advertising and marketing medium, thanks to its models, has been able to transition smoothly in some respects. One of the biggest changes has been to move to working remotely, commenting that this was a harmonious change, with few technical problems thanks to the agile work methodologies and project management software already used. The productive edge was almost completely stopped, but thanks to the inventive quality of the creative workers, they have been able to create solutions in a short period of time and with resources unimaginable at any other time. The secret is in proving that creativity is still there, by focusing on achieving productions in record time.

Digital Chemistry

When presenting a project or idea, we always tried to create a connection, to generate a chemistry with the client, and now this must be done digitally, removing the pitch from any extravagance that may have been added. The marketing expert notes that this has been something very positive. Now we have to involve a new way of enriching the cycle of sessions that results in a closing of the contract. It is a good opportunity to show in a new way the culture of the company, the personality, the unique experience that is given to the client. This implies a longer rehearsal time, better coordination, and a more limited selection of the essential individuals for the streaming meetings. Kaplowitz comments that she obtained positive feedback from the agencies with which she has worked in these times, who emphasize that this way a fluid dialogue is generated, providing a more pleasant experience for the client.

Know your own value

One of the most obvious problems is cash flow. There are brands that directly stopped their campaigns, within the hotel segment and airlines, if we add to this that there were already customers with late payments, and that ¾ of the expenditure of the agencies is usually in human resources, we are facing a big problem. The expert’s advice is very simple: stipulate in writing the latency in the term of a payment, clarifying its momentary nature. This is an issue that affects multiple agencies, payment for work done is of utmost importance.

Kaplowitz explains that there has been a positive focus on the relationship between agencies and clients, making these links better dialogued and strengthened. Since there is no time to overanalyze every detail, brands are allowing themselves to take risks in this time of crisis, which in the end allows agencies to perform their primary work, which is to help brands strengthen their marketing and better position themselves in the market.

Returning to the previous point, it is very important to be able to charge correctly for the work done. It is necessary to have software to control the metrics, the hours required by the creative tasks, to accurately assess each deliverable. This information is a key factor when discussing fees with clients. “Many brands are asking for more work for the same price and it is important to have tools to be able to have a discussion about that with the client. Understand where the costs stem from”, she says.

Resilient Agencies

At the beginning of the pandemic everyone wondered what to do to keep their place in the marketplace, looking at past recessions to see a possible way forward. How can agencies do better, and not just stay afloat? There are two vital axes to this:

  • Finance and Operations:

Cash flow is the primary area of concern. If expenses have to be cut, it is important that they are not in the areas of customer and employee satisfaction and retention. Think professionally and actively explore all opportunities to renegotiate with suppliers. Check that contracts are made in the right way and that customers maintain a real commitment. At this point, the primary objective is to focus on clients who are already on the payroll, and to dedicate oneself to maintaining the strength of those ties, aligning the agency’s business with its growth needs. Another important point for Kaplowitz is how an agency is named: “It’s important to show yourself as a value, not a cost.

  • Planning for the future

To diversify in the areas to which these companies are dedicated and not to dedicate themselves to only one industry, nor that only one client is the recipient of more than 50% of the advertising production. It is vital to maintain a balance between talent and new production models, to provide added value to customers. Think of them as an investment prospect for the future. Research in new productions, expand to new media. For example, companies that have dedicated themselves to the user experience have experienced a rise. Within the options offered to the client, it must always be clarified that the volume of work translates into benefits for the brand. To be able to specify, not only the cost of the deliverables, but also the impact of that product. For this, it is vital to have a solution that makes the scope of each post, of each piece presented, transparent. It is not a question of quantity, but of impact and resources.

The Office: a concept to be modified

There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding how the return to the office will be, since one must take into account the dimension of infrastructure costs, the logistics of health restrictions in each city, and the willingness of each employee to return. Many do not wish to return every day, and many managers feel that it is not necessary to require their employees to be working from the office, if they can do so from home.

Is it necessary to replicate each facet of the face-to-face work exactly? Perhaps not. If anything, this situation has demonstrated that work can be done and articulated in an infinite number of ways, and talent can also come from a multiplicity of places. The flexibility of remote work will grow more and more, and will be an important point when deciding where to work.

This moment forces us to evaluate the plans, and crystallizes the challenges. It is demanding and complex, but also liberating, since there is no other option but to evaluate the problem areas in depth, and execute a concrete plan in this regard. And continue to take care of the areas that are doing well. It’s a reset to the familiar way of doing business.

You can see the entire Podcast here:


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