5 Agency Leaders on Which Industry Changes Keep Them Up at Night

Doing more with less, and doing it faster

As 2014 winds down, Adweek asked advertising and media leaders about what's been top of mind for them this year. Across marketing disciplines, there are nuances among their concerns but what they all share is the urgency to adapt to changes in technology, consumers and the larger world. Here are their thoughts:

• Rei Inamoto, worldwide chief creative officer, AKQA

Talent shortage is last year's problem. This has been talked about as the single biggest problem facing our industry. I don't think that's the issue. We try not to think about upcoming trends. That makes us near-sighted and chasing short-term gains that may not pay off long-term. Rather, it's more important to look five years into the future and think about how to create an organization that endures for many decades to come.

With that, one thing that keeps me up at night is this: Do More With Less. This is the biggest challenge facing our industry today and for pretty much eternity. We are in the business of selling creativity as quantified by the amount of time and the number of people. The success of our business is measured by numerical growth: revenue, margin, size, number of people and wins. But actually, the world is going in the other way. It's now about achieving the most with the least. It's about figuring out how to "Do More With Less." Less time, less money and less people. Companies that will be successful—not in 2015 but in 2020 and beyond—are those who will be smaller than their predecessors but can have bigger impact and influence.

• Susan Gianinno, North American chairman, Publicis

Companies of all shapes and sizes have to reinvent themselves to keep up with and take full advantage of the seismic and unabating changes in every aspect of marketing, media and communications. Everyone needs to be faster, smarter, more agile, more acutely attuned to culture and context and more adept and facile with new capabilities, including social, search, connected content and devices. Our job is to be an indispensable partner in helping our clients in their own marketing transformation.

Another huge shift is the millennial momentum. They are coming into their own with a vengeance while baby boomers redefine aging as merely a transitional phase marked by good health and continued restlessness. There's also the radically altered ethnic landscape where minorities will soon become the majority. Then there's the increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots, which is eliminating the big middle market that kept some of our biggest brands thriving. We need to help our clients reposition to address this bifurcation. The middle is gone.

• Daryl Simm, global CEO, Omnicom Media Group

Data and analytics: It has been at the top of our agenda since we launched (analytics unit) Annalect in 2009 and it accelerates change across our entire organization. This area is expanding quickly and we're all fishing in a talent pool that's only beginning to ramp up.

Another thing is building mass brands in a personalized media world. With endless hyper-targeting opportunities, the challenge lies in finding the right balance between transaction drivers, personalized messaging and building mass upper-funnel equity. Every brand situation is different, but we can't lose sight of the end goal, which is building business while not squandering equity. There's also the commoditization of media. In a world of infinite touch-points, we still see examples that trade off brand objectives, engagement, context or ROI. These cases say we've failed to build the client's confidence in the power of their brand's relationships with consumers. It pushes us to develop better analytics to put the focus on results. Getting a great price on what you need is always important. Shopping for cheap gas when you need to take the train, not so much.

• Carter Murray, global CEO, FCB

The perpetual war on talent continues: Where to find it; how to retain and nurture it. Facebook and Twitter attract millennial talent through strong creative cultures and competitive compensation and by offering them the opportunity to make a difference. We need to remain relevant to the best talent in the world, particularly as it relates to digital acumen. There's a tremendous amount of competition for people who can build 21st century brands.

There's also the extreme world events that impact the world economy. In an interconnected world, there are fewer and fewer truly "local" crises. All of which makes the job of managing a global agency network an incredibly complex one—at the financial, human and brand levels. People expect modern brands to share their values; to have a role in solving or alleviating crises; or at the very least, to have a voice in the important issues of the day. We need to get better at helping brands understand that responsibility. There are also the business pressures in Russia and Brazil. For years the economic growth of the BRIC markets has driven global performance for agency networks but as Russia and Brazil slow down, there are huge implications. We need to reengineer our operations in these markets, uncover new sources of growth globally and revisit operations in mature markets. We no longer have the luxury of being able to hide behind strong financial and creative performance in Russia and Brazil.

• Lou Aversano, New York CEO, Ogilvy & Mather

David Ogilvy once said that Ogilvy & Mather is a teaching hospital. The biggest thing that keeps me up at night is how Ogilvy continues to live up to the talent standards he set. Quite simply, this means hiring the most diverse workforce in the world and continuing to invest in our people in a way to keep them inspired, engaged and proud to be at our agency.

Ideas are our livelihood and our lifeblood. They need to inspire and they need to shine a light on things that are otherwise hard to see. We need to continue to invest in having the best ideas for our clients and their brands no matter the forum. We need to be brave enough to challenge our legacy models of how things have been done to ensure we continue to set the standard for creativity. Culture is also so important to us. It's often talked about, but often overlooked, underinvested and difficult to measure. Yet, it is what sets us apart. We need to invest to keep the Ogilvy culture alive and kicking so its value is just as strong today as it was yesterday.