Agencies are still best-placed to offer advertisers impartial expertise and creative marketing solutions, according to Dentsu Aegis Network global chief executive Jerry Buhlmann.
Speaking to M&M Global at the group’s beach venue at Cannes Lions 2016, Buhlmann says that, despite the claims of digital media and ad tech firms, agencies remain a marketers’ best friend – so long as they adapt to the new reality of the digital economy.
“In the context of this market, innovation is critical to success for brands. The only certainly over the next five years is the growth of the digital economy. Clients have to build digital economy businesses if they want to thrive and succeed,” says Buhlmann.
“We’re the only holding company with a vision, innovating the way brands are built. We see some big changes in the market, and some big opportunities. Being high growth and low legacy, which I think we are, gives us an advantage,” he adds, referring to the 46 acquisitions Dentsu Aegis Network has made over the past 18 months.
Ad tech partners
Buhlmann refutes the suggestion that clients would be better served by partnering with those that own the technology and data in the first place.
“It’s a question that I hear quite a lot,” he admits. “We are very keen to get our ad tech media partners to support us, and to help us. They are very important, and very scaled. We have growing partnerships with them, but the important thing is that they are leveraged partnerships. We spend a lot of money with them, which means we can use their scale and capabilities to support our clients.
“Also, the reality is they are media vendors. I have a lot of respect for Google: they are hugely successful, and they are great partners of ours, and I think they are amazing. But, in the end, as a client if you go and see Google, they are going to recommend more Google.
“Agencies have a role to disseminate the best routes, the best channels and the best creative solutions, because consumers don’t just use Google, or Facebook, or Amazon.”
Buhlmann reveals the network generates “around a third” of its revenue from content creation and technology services, and says he is determined to oversee the creation of a new form of creative agency proposition, one linked much more closely to the performance of client brands.
“We’re keen on new-model creative businesses, rather than trying to recreate the old advertising model that existed many years before,” he says.
“The reality is that consumers are changing, and we have to reflect those consumer changes. Trust in brands and advertisers used to be based on beliefs – you would create a belief around a brand promise – but nowadays people don’t trust in beliefs, they trust in experiences. What do their peers say? What is the utility of that brand?
“Creativity is about creating immersive experiences, and immersive experiences are much more valuable than one-way messages. And that is very much a brand commerce approach – every time you interact with a brand as a consumer, you should be able to buy it. It is a big challenge but it is a great opportunity,” he adds.