by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) Here are 10 things that stood out at the recent AdForum Worldwide Summit in New York City, 23–27 April 2018, attended by just over 30 global pitch consultants:

  1. Agencies talked constantly about the “holding-group model being broken” — we (the consultants at AdForum) tended to think that they were parroting comment in the media around the WPP scenario. However, what is true is that the larger holding groups (eg Publicis, Omnicom) have already put some changes in place quite successfully. The smaller holding groups such as IPG, HAVAS and MDC are already quite nimble in their approaches.
  2. More and more client reviews tend to be project-based as opposed to agency of record (AOR) based. Our recommendation here is that agencies take up the project opportunities, form relationships with their clients and then suggest more work. Clients are reluctant/ nervous to change everything in one go — even if they would like to.
  3. Agencies’ greatest competitors are the clients’ in-house marketing departments themselves. Clients are building more and more capabilities in-house.
  4. Blockchain technology offers the opportunity for media agencies in particular to supply secure data and proof of appearance, and we saw of examples of this. We believe that blockchain will be used more and more in the industry as time goes on. Immutable tech, immutable ledger. Advertising and blockchain are an inevitability as it works by consensus and self-regulation — good for brand safety. It’s why Bitcoin has worked.
  5. Technology is becoming closer and closer to us; the next stage is for it to be in our bodies, eg counting the calories while we eat? The possibilities are endless for our health and continuous monitoring of our organs.
  6. While there’s a lot of discussion about the threat of the business consultancies, which might take over agency work, the truth is that these consultancies (McKinsey, EY, KPMG etc) make their money from audits. To dabble in the world of marketing doesn’t make a lot of business sense. And, while companies such as Accenture are buying up creative agencies, we’re not sure that this is going to produce the result originally envisaged. The jury is out on this.
  7. Conflicting brands in the same agency is less and less of an issue. Clients are prepared to sacrifice exclusivity for the benefits of specialisation. This is happening across the board, not only in digital and media agencies.
  8. The rise and rise of tech.
    1. By 2020, 50% of all internet searches will use voice technology.
    2. We touch our phones on average 2617 times per day
    3. Google and Facebook accounted for 99% of all advertising growth in 2017
  9. The expanding role of the CMO includes duties in the CIO and CTO areas — great opportunities from this. However, there is a need for agencies to simplify life for the CMO as a result of this increased pressure.
  10. Companies and brands that predate the digital revolution are now struggling. Growth has stopped in the majority of Fortune 500 companies. Technology has disrupted everything and opened the door to a new crop of competitors: asymmetrical competitors eg Amazon (online ecommerce) competes with Walmart (physical stores). Legacy brands vs disruptive innovators — there are opportunities for agencies to assist in business transformation.

See also


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is managing director of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. Johanna is one of the few experts driving this mediation and advisory service in SA and globally. Currently she is running the IAS Marketers Masterclass, a programme consisting of masterclasses held in Cape Town and in Johannesburg. Twice a year she attends AdForum Worldwide Summits.

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