iMedia Agency Summit: Why agencies suck.

10 minutes til breakfast here in lovely Palm Springs. I'm at La Quinta for my first iMedia Summit. Everyone keeps telling me to "pace myself" so I'm a little worried about the libations over the next two days 

(Note to future first timers: Just finishing this post 3 days later. Didn't pace myself. It was good advice.)

However, it's been a great event and given me lots to think about. Gordon Patterson, the former CMO of New Line Cinema (and a great guy), was interviewed yesterday about how where he sees agencies providing real value to clients and where he sees agencies screwing up—and why despite that he still loves agencies and sees they have great value to offer.

According to Gordon, the fundamental issues between clients and agencies are on both sides: clients don't communicate to agencies and agencies don't listen.  Big fundamental issue on both sides because it leads to clients who feel like they're being nickel-and-dimed by agencies and agencies constantly struggling with scope creep and being squeezed by clients. It leads to a situation where agencies—that are full of smart people trying to be strategic about everything they do—wind up being tactical.

From the client side, Gordon's other issues were really about getting the service you expect:
  • the old bait and switch: principals pitch and then you never see them again
  • retention and turnover: as soon as people get up to speed on your business, they move on (from now on, you can be be sure I'll mention that only 2 people have quit at Traction since we started the agency in 2001 every time I pitch)
  • don't over-promise on bandwidth, dammit
  • agencies better keep bringing new ideas to the table, because your competitors sure are
  • turf battles: agencies and publishers need to tag-team to make good ideas a reality, not fight over turf
But Gordon also point out that agencies are incredibly value because of the energy, the outside perspective and the media relationships they bring to the table. He also brought up the value of agencies that "cross-fertilize" across client relationships (something I think Traction needs to do more of).

Great session.

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