AAR's new boss: why we are upping our game in consultancy
A view from Victoria Fox

AAR's new boss: why we are upping our game in consultancy

A greater focus on collaboration will drive more impactful and effective work.

After leaving my role as chief executive of Lida last year, I wanted time to take a step back and look at our industry. As I take the helm at AAR, I’m so glad I gave myself this opportunity. I’ve spoken to so many brilliant people along the way: colleagues from my early days, industry leaders, creative influencers, entrepreneurs and friends.

Change is evident everywhere, from the explosion of in-housing and holding group mergers to independent agencies that are refocusing firmly on their USP of creativity, clients restructuring around the customer and consultancies advancing quickly into this space. Content companies, tech start-ups and collectives are all shaking things up in their own way.

One thing that emerged strongly from my discussions is that we are all thinking of solutions as old-school or new-school. Either/or. Short-term performance marketing or longer-term brand-building creativity. I came away from many of my meetings feeling like I had to choose which solution to back. I saw merits in all.

I think the truth is less black and white and – as in life – the real truth lies in the grey. We need elements of all the solutions and we urgently need to find ways to bring this diversity of thinking together more successfully. That isn’t about becoming generalists, but more about helping specialisms work together better and efficiently.

Marketers seem to have a clearer idea of what nirvana looks like – putting the customer right at the heart of the organisation – but the vision is the easier part. The harder part is organising operations to make it a reality.

The bridge between strategy and marketing operations is one part of the jigsaw. I call this the "how". This includes looking in-depth at working practices, team structures and increasingly complex marketing landscapes, as well as how information is shared across all partners to enable a vision to become a reality. On top of this, processes need to be agile and flexible, but not undermine creativity.

One thing often overlooked is the importance of nurturing teams who collaborate well. Good old-fashioned chemistry and respect. It sounds simple, but requires clever design and time investment.

It is not surprising that agencies and clients focus the majority of their attention on "the what". Whatever the solution, it must still be all about the work, as the endgame is engaging customers. However, without working through the "how", the vision is hard to realise.

I believe the answer is pragmatic consultancy, building bespoke solutions to fit clients’ individual cultures. I took these thoughts to Kerry Glazer (pictured above, left), someone whose opinion I have always greatly valued. Not only did she agree with my musings but, as serendipity would have it, she was starting to think about her successor at AAR.

With plans to extend our consultancy offering – adding more expertise in marketing operations – we will ensure that we continue to be a powerful partner for today’s chief marketing officers as they transform how they deliver marketing and develop seamless marketing landscapes.

We believe we can help clients in getting the "how" spot on, so they can focus on the "what": driving impactful and effective work. After all, that is still what our incredible industry is all about.

Victoria Fox (pictured above, right) is incoming chief executive of AAR