AdForum Worldwide Summit NYC: Highlights — a look into the future.

von Johanna McDowell , IAS, Johannesburg



AdForum Worldwide Summit NYC: Highlights — a look into the future.

by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) 

At this latest AdForum Worldwide Summit, the 15th that has occurred since this event started and the eighth that I’ve attended, we had seven days of meetings with industry players: agencies of all types, selected media owners and the American National Advertisers Association. Plus we met in New York and Los Angeles — some intrepid consultants even went on to San Francisco for final meetings there with tech startups, Facebook and Google. So it was an exceptional summit, with all that this entails.

The content that we glean at these summits helps us to understand what will happen next in agencies and it helps us to advise marketers of the future of the industry. There is no question of the value that this event adds to our work with agencies. I also benefit from interacting with other consultants in the world who do like work, and the opportunity to share best practice in pitch management, agency relationship management, merger and acquisitions is just invaluable.

This year’s summary includes all of the agencies we visited and one key highlight from each day.

Three days in New York City: 16 agency and company visits

Day 1 — New York City — Wednesday 5 October 2016

Agencies visited

  • Critical Mass: digital/design/activations
  • AI Media Group: CRM
  • ANA: American Association of National Advertisers
  • Hearts & Science: media agency — data driven only — within the OMD group
  • IRIS: full integrated global agency — recently acquired by Cheil
  • The Foundry: activations

Key highlight/insight of the days

Critical Mass shared its thoughts with us concerning today’s consumer. We are living in the midst of an expectations gap between what consumers want and what they can get. This has been created by the disruptor brands such as Uber, Airbnb and Netflix as they have set standards that entrenched brands cannot live up to. Brands need to fully embrace customer centricity through listening, engaging and learning.

Day 2 — New York — Thursday 6 October

Agencies visited

  • VCCP: independent agency group — “ a refugee camp from the networks/holding companies”
  • RGA: one of the world’s favourite agencies — always looking into the future
  • Accenture Interactive: the digital group belonging to the global consulting company — another new competitor to the ad world
  • The Martin Agency: independent agency group dedicated to craft
  • ICrossing: highly successful digital, CRM wing of Hearst group

Key highlight/insights

Accenture Digital/Interactive is a full-service digital offering within the Accenture network — and a whole new era in advertising opens up as the consulting companies start competing. It shared some key trends:

  • You are your content — 90% of business leaders at C-Suite level believe that executives should be responsible for content strategy
  • Know thyself — 65% of content production is being built directly by clients with their own in house studios
  • Internet video will account for 79% of global internet traffic by 2020
  • 52% of marketing professionals will name video as being the best ROI within the marketing tool kit

Day 3 — New York — Friday 7 October

Agencies visited

  • Mother: fully integrated creative agency
  • IBM IX: digital agency within IBM structure
  • Google: who gave away nothing!
  • VSA Partners: creative and strongly digital agency
  • Madras: activations mainly — strong agency originating in India

Key learnings

Nothing beats a ‘cult’ agency such as Mother. Everything it does is done in its own way — even presenting to 30 global pitch consultants entirely via iPhone 7 tech and using the Tinder matchmaking process. Love it or hate them, the agency is unique and very keen to keep on growing — recording a great deal of new business growth that week. This is the kind of agency that everyone wants in a pitch, just to see how it will see things. Its independence is of paramount importance to it, as well as that it can work with whichever media agency it wants to.

And that is the end of the New York report. Next up: highlights from Los Angeles!


Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is managing director of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS). This time, she has deviated from her usual daily reporting format as it doesn’t properly encompass all of the key learnings that pitch consultants are exposed to. She will be doing a full report back, as well as showcasing studies from the agencies, at her upcoming Marketing Masterclass sessions. The Joburg masterclass is on 26 October — which is already heavily booked but there is still place available — and the Cape Town one is on 29 November. Book now!

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