We’re asking member-agency CEOs, creative leaders, strategists, media execs, futurists and new business gurus to answer the same five questions about the state of the ad industry in our 5 Questions for … series. Here Walrus co-founder and COO Frances Webster shares her views.
1) What’s the biggest challenge or opportunity facing the ad industry right now?
The explosion of media channels, publishers and platforms has created an abundance of choices for consumers, and a host of challenges for marketers—more noise to break through, more competition for eyeballs, more annoying and interruptive advertising and more ad blocking. This media fragmentation is a huge creative opportunity for our industry. P&G’s Marc Pritchard was absolutely right when he said measurement won’t make crappy ads better; all the data and technology in the world can’t create a valuable user experience, but good, compelling content can. The future will be won by advertising that people actually want to see, hear and experience.
2) What is the single most significant change you need to make in your agency in the next 12 months?
At Walrus we have a mission to change the way the world feels about advertising. That means filling it with ideas that are smart, funny and respect people’s time and intelligence. To that end, we recently established an internal media department to help ensure every creative idea is thriving in each platform and channel, and not disrupting the user experience. Our philosophy is “better work works better.” Ideally we’ll continue to have opportunities to work with marketers who share this belief, who realize the status quo is no longer effective and who are ready to do something daring. We have to continue to make this type of work and advocate for it to our clients.
3) What products/services/unique skills do ad agencies offer that guarantee the industry’s survival for another 100 years?
Agencies will probably look very different in 100 years, but I believe creativity is a skill that will be valued forever. The emphasis may be on ad-tech and automation nowadays, but advertising still needs humanity in order to connect with people. Creativity is what gives our clients and our industry a competitive advantage. It should be prioritized above all else.
4) What attributes do you look for in your next generation of leaders/managers?
I look for people who seize every opportunity to be outside their comfort zone. One of the most important lessons I’ve picked up along the way is that you have to push yourself beyond what you’re familiar with and already know how to do in order to be successful. When we started Walrus, it was a big decision to make that leap, but it really paid off in the end.
5) If you weren’t working in advertising, what would you be doing as a career?
I’d be sitting poolside and enjoying an ice cold martini (shaken, not stirred and with two olives).