If we were a startup

GroupM digital strategy and investment officer Venessa Hunt
By GroupM digital strategy and investment officer Venessa Hunt | 23 January 2019

This interview is part of our February content series on the 'Changing Nature of the Agency Model' that will explore remuneration, global pitches, competitors and more. Subscribe now to read it hot off the press.

In 2019, the media industry will go through a year of the greatest change in history. But we all have to get comfortable with transformation and learn to embrace it. 

Media convergence is happening at light speed as online and offline blur and the separation between data and media strategies is becoming almost impossible to spot as they rely on each other to be effective and purposeful.

We’re described as a legacy industry, dealing with rapid change, but it’s interesting to think about how you would build an agency if you were starting again now. 

You’d be starting up again without the benefits of scale that come with an established business. You wouldn’t have decades of embedded knowledge and experience, long-term client and partner relationships and the competitive advantage that comes with it, but if you could tear the walls down, and start again, what would that look like and how would you shape it. 

I believe the number one attribute of a start-up is the openness and willingness to change. It’s this quality, we’re already embracing, but if our agency was a start-up today, there are six areas I’d focus on.

Non-siloed structure

Organisational structure is typically derived from a series if objectives, which are then translated into silos capable of supporting the activities necessary to reach each objectives.

This is fine, as long as the markets, customers, and the wider technological and social environments do not undergo rapid change. Legacy organisations are often built to support routine and standard activities and specialised and siloed departments can be slow to embrace change when not exposed to the wider business. As a result, legacy organisations can run into trouble if they are unprepared to solve non-standard problems.

In 2019 we will see great changes in the economy, game-changing regulatory initiatives, cross-cutting technological trends and further digitisation. It will be more important than ever to be able to see the whole picture and adapt quickly.

Single minded focus

Often start-ups are created to solves problems or changes in society or an ecosystem. They have a laser focus on solving one thing or being one thing to a customer.

In comparison, legacy businesses have often been in existence for a long time and have evolved and morphed into lots of solutions for lots of things. In an industry which gets more complicated very year, it’s important to find a laser focus that grounds everything you do (or don’t do) and every choice you make.

For us, GroupM has one focus which is inspiring excellence in everything we do – for our clients, our staff and the industry as a whole.

Hire an even more diverse team

We have made diversity the very core of our culture and way of behaving. This is a complex process for a legacy business especially in an industry like media and advertising.

It’s important seek out people who look, think, and have experiences that are different than ourselves. This helps us think through ideas, and prepare us to meet the changing needs of our diverse employee and customer base.

Make experimentation part of the culture

Failure often fuels success. If you don't fail, you don't learn. If you don't learn, you don't grow

Failures you encounter while experimenting with new ways to do things gives you important lessons to inform what works, what doesn't, and how you need to adjust. In the media world, in the past we have had a very little room or failure.

Especially in a digital ecosystem where we often measure everything we do to the millimetre. By default we have a culture of precision. In a start-up culture failure, when managed right, is part of the DNA for growth and improvement.

Fluid and integrated processes

In Media and advertising, we have some very established systems that we need to use to keep our businesses running. But often this doesn’t allow wiggle room in the processes or the ability to join a lot of these systems together. If rebuilding from scratch, these systems would be designed with the sole purpose in flexibility to integrate into a larger ecosystem. 

Adopt a two-speed agency model

Fundamentally we would look like a two-speed agency. Where everything that is possible to automate is automated and we are able to incorporate the creativity, intuition, and heart that makes the biggest ideas come to life and creates an unfair advantage for our clients, employees and partners – all whilst raising the bar for the industry as a whole.

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