People who `have got it’

Advertising and marketing people have by now accepted that their industry is in the midst of a major overhaul.Traditional relationships between clients and their marketing communications suppliers are changing radically and rapidly.As new structures and new rules emerge within the marketing...

Advertising and marketing people have by now accepted that their industry is in the midst of a major overhaul.

Traditional relationships between clients and their marketing communications suppliers are changing radically and rapidly.

As new structures and new rules emerge within the marketing community, new opportunities are also being created among communications suppliers – ad agencies, pr companies, design houses, research firms, promotion services, and the like – for people who are prepared to challenge convention. These are the people who Strategy would describe as ‘Agents of Change.’

In an effort to identify some of the individuals who are impressing clients with their innovation and fresh thinking, Strategy approached 530 clients with a questionnaire seeking nominations for ‘Agents of Change.’

Individual client names were selected from a broad cross-sectional sample of Canada’s leading marketing-driven companies. All the clients contacted were senior decision-makers. In selecting the 530 names, Strategy also made sure that the individuals spanned a full range of marketing responsibilities. They were all senior managers in charge of such activities as media and direct advertising, design, promotion and other related services.

In each case, the client was sent a detailed questionnaire summarizing our definition of an ‘Agent of Change.’ Those clients who did not respond immediately were contacted by telephone and encouraged to participate.

The questionnaire described ‘Agents of Change’ as:

‘… suppliers of marketing services who have been listening and who `have got it.’ These are the people who are not intimidated by change and who, by example, are contributing to it. They are the people with vision and enterprise. They are the leaders who are helping to shape the way things will be.’

Assuring each respondent confidentiality, Strategy asked the clients ‘… to identify marketing services suppliers who can rightly be called `Agents of Change.”

The survey yielded 40 names. They appear in a list beginning on page 12 of this issue.

While those clients who nominated ‘Agents of Change’ were enthusiastic about their submissions, in the vast majority of cases, clients said they could not respond because they could not think of a supplier who fit Strategy’s definition of an ‘Agent of Change.’

Yet, according to one question in the survey, clients feel overwhelmingly that they are encouraging their suppliers to be innovative.

In the survey, Strategy asked clients:

‘Do you or your organization, either formally or informally, encourage your outside marketing services suppliers to bring forward thoughts or initiatives which would represent real, substantive change in the way you do business?’

In all but one case, clients responded ‘Yes’ to this question.

It is also clear from many of the respondents’ comments that clients are looking to their suppliers to show more initiative and to get more involved in their (clients’) businesses.

Following is a randon sampling of some of the comments in response to the question: ‘How satisified are you with the willingness and ability of your marketing services suppliers to initiate change?’

- ‘An attitude shift is well overdue.’

- ‘(Our ad agency) has not made a concerted effort to understand how our business works on a day-to-day basis, so their suggestions are generally not realistic.’

- ‘All seem willing, but are hard-pressed to `push the envelope.’ Many don’t know where to start.’

- ‘Most don’t take time to understand our business.’

- ‘They fear failure.’

- ‘Highly inconsistent behavior from marketing services in general.’

- ‘Often strong on ideas, weak on support.’

- ‘There is a willingness to change in a portion of suppliers, but the willingness is not met with ability in 100% of them.’

- ‘I believe the current economic climate has stifled `outside of the box’ thinking. Secondguessing clients needs to ensure no one rocks the boat is prevalent. Time is at a premium with everyone. As agencies strive to do more with less (time, people, resources) business initiatives are few and far between.’