Five ways to spark success in the year ahead

An industry-wide pep talk from Cossette's EVP and general manager Daniel Shearer.

By Daniel Shearer

There’s never been a better time to be in this crazy, wonderful business. Yes, we’re challenged as an industry, but the challenges of the last many years will make us better – if we embrace and learn from them.

Here are five ideas on how to do so in 2019:

Be less distracted

For years we’ve been distracted – insecurely chasing the shiny new thing while abandoning or even shunning some of the timeless fundamentals of brand building. We’ve over-steered on digital-first, mobile, technology, content, programmatic, VR, machine learning, AI and more. (Here’s the non-virtual reality of VR, by the way.)

I’d like to be clear: every single one of these things matters and should play a big role in the way in which we build our clients’ brands. The question is more about how we leverage them. For me, they’re enablers, broadcasters, multipliers and canvasses.

The truth is that the possibilities of our industry will be forever expanding. That’s a good thing. But this year, let’s be a bit more balanced in how we embrace the new.

(A cheeky aside: has anyone noticed that every single tech giant continues to use printed billboards as a hero media channel?)

Get diversity and inclusion right

As an industry, we’re finally understanding the importance of getting diversity and inclusion right, in all its forms. It’s not only a moral imperative, it’s also going to help deliver business results.

In “Why Diversity Matters,” McKinsey analyzed the profits and value creation of 1,000 companies in 12 countries. Those scoring in the top quarter for ethnic and gender diversity are more likely to deliver above-average profitability than companies at the bottom. Ethnic diversity: 33% more; gender: 21% more. Big numbers.

At Cossette, 56% of management roles are held by women, 28% of our team are visible minorities and 13% are part of the LGBTQ+ community. We’re proud of this – but we know it’s just a start.

The difference between diversity and inclusion is that diversity is ‘facts’ and inclusion is ‘acts.’ This year, let’s think about what real and meaningful actions we’re taking as an industry to make room for the different ways of being in the world. How are we listening to the bounty of divergent thoughts, beliefs and opinions out there?

Let’s push to draw the diversity and inclusion frame as widely as possible  age, socio-economics, regional, differing professional backgrounds and more. We can have a much richer conversation.

See creativity as a business advantage

For those who have been to our shop, you’ll see this phrase on our wall in huge type at the centre of the agency: “Creativity is not a risk.” We believe that is one of the most powerful tools in business.

The IPA in London is doing some amazing, ongoing work analyzing the impact of creativity on business, showing that creatively awarded work can drive market share growth seven to 12 times more efficiently than non-creatively awarded work.

While creative shows are not the perfect way to measure the success of clients’ business, take the message inherent in this study as an important bellwether. Creativity, if embraced with all of its inconvenience and unwieldiness, generates fame, earned media, breakthrough and indeed, a huge competitive advantage. Let’s not lose sight of this.

Build the total brand experience

Agencies add the most value when we take a view of the total brand experience, informing and designing every single interaction between consumer and brand.

Mark Read’s first couple of big moves at WPP (see: VML/Y&R and Wunderman/JWT, R.I.P. Lester Wunderman, a true visionary) have been in service of just this: building integrated digital/CRM/technology/creative shops for the 21st century.

The age of the “ad agency” is over because clients are demanding so much more depth.  Our consumer’s experiences with brands aren’t siloed by discipline – and it’s critical that the agencies designing the experiences aren’t either. (By the way, my tip for the Hold Co’s going through mergers and realignments is to consider media as a part of the mix. It’s a game-changer.)

Remember what we’re worth

At our best, agencies add boatloads of value to brands that genuinely understand how to partner with us. What we make matters. And we’re learning how to reassert ourselves, from our value, to pitch processes, to our compensation and beyond.

When we’re at our best, clients want to do more with us. Pay us more. Ask us to join them at the strategic table. We’ve all been there, we know these relationships. We have to believe in the value we bring and seek clients that want to engage us in ways that respect that.

The challenges of the last many years have made us healthier, leaner, more fit, and more agile. We’re getting more diverse, more inclusive, and better at recognizing and celebrating individuality. We have a clearer sense of self, confidence in what we bring, and the knowledge that our best work drives huge growth for our clients.

Happy New Year. Big things ahead in 2019.

Daniel Shearer is the EVP and general manager of Cossette.