There is much debate over the logic of management consultancy groups acquiring media and advertising agencies. What may stand in their way is understanding cultural dynamics and the role of human capital in a technology revolution.
A mix of European, African and Middle Eastern delegates gathered at the African Cristal Festival and Awards in Morocco to discuss and debate the future of media and advertising in Africa. Unsurprisingly the word ‘technology’ was bounced around at every opportunity, to the extent that it started to lose its impact. Perhaps the ‘new and shiny’ are settling into ‘recent and proven’ technologies that enable communication rather than destroy it? At the centre of the debate lies creative leadership and how innovation stacks up.
Allure of acquisition
One of the threats facing advertising and media agencies is the predatory nature of management consultancy groups, many of whom are looking to specialise in fields hitherto the preserve of traditional agencies. The allure of acquiring creative agencies is a consequence of disruptive technology and software, embedded in a clients business and producing big data with a promise of improving return on investment. Coupling data and analytics with creative communication of a client’s brands offers a compelling reason for management consultancies to make their move.
Media agencies present a better prospect, filled as they are with specialised analytically minded individuals who are used to dealing with complex statistical analysis on behalf of CMOs demanding improved bottom line delivery.
Advertising agencies will prove challenging. The typical executive creative director is steeped in driving client and consumer disruption. Not that analytical application doesn’t inform advertising decision-making; the key is merging both to focus on creating change for the good – of client ROI and consumer value. Doing good is good business, as some say. Early indications are that merging of traditional management consultancy firms with creative agencies may not be as be as successful as assumed. Mainly due to deeply entrenched cultural differences, shifts in power and business practice.
This debate will rage on for some time as will the need for creative leadership in times of disruption.
Michael Conrad, founder and president of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, recognised a pressing need to develop training courses and an MBA programme in creative leadership. Their Executive MBA programme attracts candidates from across the globe from the entertainment, advertising, design, marketing and media sectors that represent the many facets of creative pursuit. It also draws like-minded entrepreneurs who view traditional business schools as hierarchical and outdated. Director of executive education, Stuart Hardy, was in Morocco to present a two-day course including modules on creative leadership; leading innovation and disruption; creative consulting and creative value.
Here are his suggestions for African and Middle Eastern leaders of tomorrow:
- Be African and use African measurement
- Channel your creativity into business and less into creativity for creative sake
- Take smart cuts not short cuts
- Grasp the moment
Considering that the acquisition of agencies across Africa is continuing as overseas consultancies view the continent as territory ripe for the picking, media-wise, Hardy’s advice is well-timed and well-considered.