O&M London's CEO Charlie Rudd spoke to Campaign about his predictions for the year ahead for new agency models.


We have been talking about the "changing agency model" every year I’ve been in this business. That doesn’t make me depressed. In fact, it’s good, because it shows that, despite what the cynics and critics say, we’re not stuck in times gone by trying to cling on to a legacy business model. 

All the agency leaders I know are paranoid about living in the past and want to do everything they can to be different from the agencies they’ve inherited or built. The fact that the agency structures of today don’t look radically different from those of a decade ago, yet still deliver good margins to their shareholders, suggests that perhaps it’s not as screwed as everyone likes to claim.

Clients should use agencies only for the stuff they can’t do themselves. Otherwise we’re a high-cost sub-contracting solution. We offer something special and should never forget it: simple, creative solutions that tackle business problems and deliver tremendous value to clients. That’s all it’s ever been about, and all it ever will be. And the fuel for all of this is still human talent and brainpower. 

What is new, however, is the breadth of the talent we can access. For some, this will mean brand, data, behavioural and media planners forming the core of the team, for others it is UX, social and a specialist from Ogilvy Noor (our Islamic team).

We then simply build agency structures and models to help us organise our talent and enable our clients see what they’re buying. 

These are only as fixed as we perceive them to be. Clients and agency leaders know the only thing that really matters is the quality of the people. This will determine their satisfaction with the agency, regardless of models or processes. Yes, many skillsets have evolved with changing marketing opportunities, but the principles of what makes a good agency remain.  

In many of the pitches we’ve been involved in and won in 2017, there have been long conversations about our agency model, team structures, organograms and the like. I would like to think our beautifully constructed keynote charts have convinced these prospective clients that we have the right agency model of the future. Perhaps they have, in part. But maybe we’ve also done well mainly because we’ve been able to front some compelling people who get the modern marketing landscape, like working together and are fired up to deliver for their new clients. Same as ever.  

In looking to sustain momentum at Ogilvy, we’ve spent a lot of time focused on bringing in more good people to work with us, across all disciplines. Not once have I felt the need to talk to them about a new model or structure to attract them. Far more important are our agenda, beliefs and ambition. 

I know I’m in danger of sounding Canute-like in suggesting that nothing needs to change, but that’s not the case. My point is that, instead, Darwin-like, we’ve always been changing to fit what clients want, to ensure we’re attractive and buyable. When we fail to do that, the best keynote chart on earth won’t save us.

Read the full article originally published in Campaign here.

Read Charlie's predictions for advertising in 2018 here.