#AdForumSummit London: Gender balance a focus
by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) LONDON: With our agenda telling us we would be meeting 19 agencies over three days during AdForum Worldwide Summit London, 22-25 September 2019, this was already a lot to take in. But what we didn’t know is how some of the agencies were structuring their sessions, which meant effectively that we met 15 agencies on Day 1 and 17 on Day 2.
There was also a controversial start to the summit, where comments from the media and participants focused on the huge bias towards male leadership and so gender balance was talked about frequently during the summit, with agencies being very conscious of this. Most took pains to point out their efforts in diversity and changes in balance in leadership. This is a significant step in an industry that has been somewhat complacent around gender and race in the more-developed economies.
With that backdrop, here is the first part of Day 1, Monday 22 September, which covers meetings with eight agencies. How did this happen?
1. M&C Saatchi
Let’s start with M&C Saatchi, an independent agency network.
Moray MacLennan, M&C Saatchi global CEO, set the tone for the agency, reminding us that M&C Saatchi has always been an entrepreneurial agency itself and is now positioning itself as the home to the creative entrepreneur. Quite an unexpected series of meetings then unfolded and we met seven different agencies within the M&C Saatchi group, all of which are investments by M&C Saatchi based on the entrepreneurs’ startup propositions, their growth and sustainability.
- World Services — led by Marcus Peffers — is a market leader in behaviour-change services, mainly working in challenging environments found in emerging markets and advising on health, politics and issues affecting those markets. The agency consists of 200 people across various markets and was founded by Peffers about seven years ago.
- Human Digital — led by Sarah Ward — uses tech to solve human issues. The company devises bespoke artificial intelligence to understand what people are doing. Human Digital can solve complex human problems using its problem-solving skills and applying “digital anthropology”. The company has been in business for 10 years.
- Majority Film — led by founder Senain Kheshgi — is a company of women filmmakers producing documentary films. With only 7% of film directors being women and a paltry 3% of creative directors worldwide being female, the need to change this dynamic is both urgent and important. The founder told us that she started the business just before the #metoo movement with the intention of providing brands with the chance of an untraditional approach and the views from women film directors.
- Send Me a Sample — led by Richard Hill — uses voice technology to create platforms to collect data for brand such as Coca-Cola, Clarins, L’Oréal and Dunkin’ Donuts. One in four homes in the UK have voice activation linked into their TV sets and this is growing rapidly, enabling brands to offer effective sampling and product trials. The company already has offices in UK, Germany and the US, and will expand globally along with the M&C Saatchi network.
- THIS, which stands for The Human Indomitable Spirit, is a company dedicated to longform films and uses unique technology for social and environmental issues such as Save the Rhino.
- SharpEnd looks at the internet of things (IoT) but through the real world as a connected platform. Examples such as tech innovation/identification in labelling of fashion items and cosmetics were shown to us.
- Saturday School — founded by Akil Benjamin — is a community development devoted to teaching women of colour and children the basics of running a business. It identified the perfect partner as M&C Saatchi. Again, it is intending to go national and global via the M&C Saatchi network.
What was clear from this session with M&C Saatchi is that its approach to entrepreneurs is a win-win for the network, as well as for the various companies and the brands that it will surely link up with over time. The gender and ethnic diversity within these companies was a very good demonstration of the type of balance that the agency is committed to develop, too.
The initiatives position the agency group as a leader in entrepreneurialism and innovation; we have seen other examples of this at our own M&C Saatchi Abel in South Africa.
Next up was Oliver, an in-house agency model company started in 2004. Staying below the radar until very recently, its offering is unique, with 2000 people and about 200 active agencies in-house. The model is underpinned by its unique operating system and Oliver has already built process and technology for more than 60 global clients. Using a combination of onsite specific talent and global network hubs, Oliver — now majority-owned by You & Mr Jones — showed us four excellent case studies for brands in different parts of the world which illustrated the quality and effectiveness of their work.
- Westjet — Canada Air campaign
- O2 — integrated campaign in Slovakia
- Axe — festival in Brazil
- Marmite — peanut butter launch
Its belief is “Fit In. Stand out.” and the success of the model is that 80% of the people from Oliver are actively producing things within their in-house agency constructs. This saves money and time for the clients, and they continuously collaborate, avoiding the need for major presentations and preferring to share ideas as early as possible.
With the added value of You & Mr Jones, this means that Oliver may access the skills and capabilities within the group, thus providing ever more services for clients. Its remuneration model is also very innovative.
And that ends the first morning of the first day of the summit. Seven more agency presentations from later that day will be in the next report.
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Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is managing director of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. She will be presenting detailed and in-depth reports and case studies on each agency from this 2019 AdForum Summit at her masterclass presentation in Johannesburg in October 2019.