Wayne Gretzky has one of the greatest sayings of all time that has stuck with me since I heard it several years ago. When asked what the difference between a good hockey player and a great hockey player was, he said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”
I’m not comparing myself to the Great One by any stretch of the imagination. However, if you’ve read my blog posts and pay attention to the agency world – and most important, listen to your clients – you know the business is changing fast. A few companies are growing larger and larger while others are starting up, shifting focus or being bought. The lines between advertising, PR and digital agencies has been blurred so badly that it’s difficult to really tell what their differentiation really is. The PR firm has hired digital teams, the ad agencies now have PR folks and the digital shops, well, they claim to be able to do everything the other two can do but better. Which totally makes sense given their long time lines, production-shop mentality and outsourcing. Oh wait — it doesn’t.
I still think PR has the leg up because of their ability to respond quickly with messaging, something the other shops will only see as a “bolt on” solution for clients. “Make this ad (or website) ‘PR-able!'” is a request I’ve heard all too many times from the large players, who are raking in millions of dollars for creative, only to watch it fall flat because the smart sounding British dudes in funky glasses oversold the impact their widget would have. “EVERYONE WILL BE DOWNLOADING YOUR WIDGET!” they’d say. The whole thing has clients heads spinning and this is before you even factor in social media-specific shops, also known as the dodo bird of the agency world.
Back to large agencies for a second: In certain instances, it makes a lot of sense for a multinational business that spans many continents to hire a large agency because they need the scale and as such can negotiate competitive rates. This makes procurement happy because it’s one contract with one holding company and theoretically they’re saving a few bucks. I’ve yet to see this model work flawlessly as typically campaigns are customized and executed differently in local markets, but I digress.
Conversely, there are companies (and marketers) looking to smaller firms that can be nimble, provide senior level thinking and attention on a regular basis to help guide them through the ever changing business and marketing landscape while providing the creativity and speed that their multinational counterparts can’t offer. I truly believe the agency world is changing and that while for the past several years I’ve worked at the former, it’s time to go where the puck is going. It’s with that that I’m happy to announce that I will be joining an independent, smaller firm next week where I will have control and authority to do some pretty remarkable things beyond what one discipline with a bolt-on solution can offer.
Which one? Well, I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag just yet. Needless to say that after six years and four months with the only agency I’ve ever known it’s going to be a different world for me. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities with MS&L and got to show the world’s largest companies my marketing chops and for that I will be eternally grateful. I’ve worked with some brilliant people and have had access to C-level executives, brand managers, marketing directors and clients that most agencies dream of. The journey has been difficult, long and at times extremely challenging but it’s one that I believe has prepared me for this new opportunity. I’ve played “intrapreneur”, if you will, for years, within a big company — so it will be a lot of fun to build a business again, this time on a much different scale with new partners and clients.
I’ll spill the beans soon on where I’m headed once the time is right. Until then, I’ll continue to zag while everyone else zigs.