It's OK to cannibalise your own business
A view from Maisie McCabe

It's OK to cannibalise your own business

It may not sound appetising but, by going into survival mode, more agencies are taking the necessary steps to safeguard their future.

I know what it’s like. You coin a snappy turn of phrase and it’s really tempting to use it again and again. Last week – while waiting for his latest to be born – WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell was back eating his own children.

It’s a simple way to get across the idea of needing to cannibalise your own business model before somebody else does and so who can blame him for using it again?

Sorrell’s line came to mind when I was writing about BBDO’s plans for Flare Studio, a Mofilm-style crowdsourced platform for its clients. In a world where brands want more content at lower prices, the old creative agency processes don’t make sense all the time.

Last week – while waiting for his latest to be born – WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell was back eating his own children.

Is it really necessary to go through the same stages of evolution for a series of gifs for a social campaign as for the hero TV ad?

Undoubtedly, some people will be worried that this is the beginning of the end. Once agencies allow brands to brief young directors willing to work for £500, they’ll never go back to paying hundreds of thousands of pounds for a professionally produced campaign.

Yet that’s quite a defeatist attitude. The voice of an industry terrified that its clients are going to see behind the screen.

If you’re nervous about a 23-year-old with a Canon Mark III, then you don’t have much professional confidence. That’s not to say they aren’t coming to get you. But a mature industry, comfortable in its worth, should be focused on making sure it is evolving to serve the needs of customers.

Some of that has got to be offering cheaper, simpler ways of doing things. But those of you who don’t want to simply facilitate an online platform have got to justify why what you do is worth extra.

Next month’s IPA Effectiveness Awards and the upcoming Effies can be vital tools in telling your personal stories of this. Cross-industry initiatives such as the Advertising Association’s Advertising Pays reports have a crucial role too.

Those of you who don’t want to simply facilitate an online platform have got to justify why what you do is worth extra.

As Claire Beale wrote at the time of publication, it is odd that ISBA’s latest Paying for Advertising report showed a decline in payment by results. Shifting campaign evaluations towards business outcomes from "likes", views, shares and discounts on average station price can only help the industry get paid a fair wage for the results it drives.

Media owners are keen to help – see my piece on Guardian News & Media’s chief revenue officer Hamish Nicklin and his "platform for action" in Campaign last week.

A bit of self-awareness wouldn’t go amiss either. Are all the layers of process necessary all of the time? BBDO has decided that the answer to that is no.

Ogilvy & Mather Group’s Makerspace is also an interesting move. O&M plans to use a proportion of clients’ budgets that might have been spent on research or planning to make stuff early on, getting it out there and seeing if it works.

If you teach, mentor and support your children, so they can go out foraging for you – while you refine your own hunting techniques – maybe you can sit down and eat together. 

maisie.mccabe@haymarket.com 
@maisiemccabe

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