Move Over Don Draper, Here Comes Silicon Valley

Sep 19, 2016


HBO’s Silicon Valley might give a better picture of today’s ad world than Mad Men.

The future of advertising will look nothing like Don Draper’s Mad Men. Rather, it will be closer to Richard Hendricks’ version of Silicon Valley (the HBO comedy series) as a technology-driven industry. This is how Curiosity VP of Technology, Jonathan Richman, sees the best ad agencies of the future. To thrive, Richman says, agencies will need to fill these four tech and business leadership roles:

  1. Marketing Leader
    Right now, the average “full-service” agency is only skilled in this role, which includes the “traditional” creative—print ads, media buying, campaign communications, etc. The best of the best will focus on truly understanding the customer and delivering the right message at the right time, versus being “creative” for the sake of being creative to win awards.
  2. Business Consultant
    This is the least natural role for most agencies. Being a good business consultant to clients means taking a stake in the success of the client’s company, and when that’s done right, agencies will naturally focus on key business goals versus taking orders and delivering assets. Then it’s time to focus on helping clients figure out new products, ways to expand markets, and customer segments to target. Most agencies don’t see this as their job because they aren’t getting paid to develop new product lines, so the focus is on delivery. But any agency can deliver assets on time and with good quality. Not many can take a seat at the highest strategic level with the client and offer real value. Ultimately, this is what clients really want—it is consistently their answer when asked, “What could your agency be doing better?” They want new ideas and innovative thinking. Agencies will not get there by simply producing assets.
  3. Technology Leader
    The best agencies will play the role of marketing technology consultant and will comfortably lead conversations with client CIOs and CTOs. There are thousands of marketing technology platforms and tools out there, so it is the agency’s job to tell clients which ones will work best for them. This means being able to understand how the technology works, what it does and how it can be used to reach the company’s goals, and being able to confidently piece together a technology stack that efficiently improves the client’s marketing efforts.
  4. Data Wrangler
    Above all, “Data Wrangler” is a critical role because it is the foundation of the first three. There are three equally important parts to this role:
    1. Data gathering and aggregation: Every company has data that could be used to make better decisions. Chances are, that data is spread out in different places and different formats and in varying degrees of usability. A giant step forward for many companies would be to get this data all in one place, and to allow clients to visualize it in a meaningful way.
    2. Synthesis and analysis of the data: This can be simple trend observation through highly complex models that predict behavior. Agencies of the future will be able to confidently handle this sort of work as a matter of course.
    3. Application and measurement: After the analysis, you need to understand what the findings mean and how to apply them to the business for the biggest return. This is where many companies struggle and where there is a lot of demand, and also white space, for agencies to step in.

There are many more features of the future successful agency, but we see the roles outlined here as critical to any agency that wants to be around in 10 years. For many, this adaptation will be too great, but for others, it is a huge opportunity to play an even bigger role in the success of clients, which helps agencies to form more stable relationships and predictable revenues.

—Jonathan Richman, Vice President, Director of Marketing Technology