Agency Redefining – Why and How Agencies Should Evolve

Agency Redefining – Why and How Agencies Should Evolve

This post is sponsored by 4 Thirteen.

Having been a member of the agency community here in Malaysia for nearly two decades now, I have seen the industry thrive and sometimes falter under the weight of the ever-changing socio-economic landscape. This ever-changing landscape has brought new expectations and requirements from clients.

Clients today are looking for agencies that possess not only the ability to creatively carry out what is asked of them, but also strategic insight and an intrinsic understanding of their business.

Oftentimes, a client may come to us with a brief for a particular campaign, and while these goals are important, what I have found most helpful in building value and trust between the agency and the client is putting in that extra effort and research. A little deeper into the long-term goals, which are not often communicated.

For us, at 14, this has been the philosophy we’ve adopted for years now. We do not view ourselves as an agency, but rather as a strategic partner for our clients.

Being a strategic partner is about establishing a true collaborative relationship with clients. Many talk about treating client relationships as partnerships, but what I’ve found is that many don’t understand (or want) you to be in a partnership.

As true partners, we must be fully immersed in the company’s medium and long-term business goals and not just completely isolated pixel payers in the current campaign. The goal should be to contribute to the overall sustainability of the client’s business, not simply to validate the value of the KPI to meet the report.

Thus, moving away from being an executive arm of an organization, and evolving into a strategic mind for operations, is what we must strive for as agencies to become strategic partners.

At the age of 14, this kind of thinking goes back to the roots of our brand, where the focus was on a more holistic and holistic view of business. As a strategic partner, we focus on addressing these long-term goals while effectively achieving short-term campaign goals.

Oftentimes, conversations revolve around business strategies for solving core business problems. This stems from our unique approach that embraces a beginner and entrepreneurial approach. This entrepreneurial mindset is a vital component of being a strong partner and we encourage all members of our team to think and act in this way.

Part of being a true strategic partner is also about being direct, transparent, and not afraid to raise the voice of concern when we truly feel that the proposed course of action will be at the expense of the client’s overall business goals. Likewise, we have been transparent about our limitations and those of our peers to constantly ensure that expectations are well managed and aligned.

This approach of being a strategic partner has proven to be very successful for us and the brands we have worked with. For example, we took a brand from relative obscurity to what is now known as Malaysia’s leading book fair. It also witnessed the transition of a startup telecom company from a startup to the most innovative telecom operator in esports.

Even once we had our own insurance client tell us, “You understand us”; This resonated with me because it wasn’t just ‘you understand our campaign or our brand’ but it was the overall ‘we’.

Now, this is what we strive to achieve with each of our customers. It’s not that we completed a successful campaign or followed their brief to a T, but rather that we intrinsically understand their business, know their ins and outs and are able to advise and act accordingly.

But evolution as an agency has to happen internally as well. The way you treat your employees (whether they are employees or outside vendors) is just as important as how you treat your customers — and maybe even more so. It is not only a reflection of your organization’s values, but most importantly it fosters long, positive and lasting relationships that are the cornerstone of any successful business.

When we first started 4 Thirteen, we got into it knowing we wanted to create an environment that truly nurtured and helped people. Like many of you, we’ve heard many horror stories about creators being overwhelmed or, worse yet, literally driving them to death on the job.

We knew that any organization we set up must step back from such practices and instead create an environment of mutual respect. One of the priorities that has been prioritized enabling our employees to lead a healthy work-life rhythm.

That is why we have worked so hard to advocate for initiatives and policies that directly address these issues, whether that is successfully implementing a four-day work week or having advisors on standby at all times. We believe that the agency of tomorrow should put the needs of its employees first at all times.

As 4 Thirteen grows from a graphic design studio to a creative branding agency, and now into a full-service strategic partner, these are the values ​​we will continue to uphold and perpetuate. To act as a true strategic partner for our clients, and as a company that truly cares about our employees.

As we enter into a new age of the industry, I think every agency can really benefit from this introspective look at how they approach client relationships and that of their employees as well. The need for evolution has arrived and we must answer the call.

The writer is Danny Jnania, CEO of Four Thirteen Group.

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