The 4A’s is talking to some of the most interesting thinkers in the business about what agencies need to do to continue to grow and thrive. In this entry of our 5 Questions for… series, Luis Montero, who is based in Miami and President of cross-cultural agency, the community, weighs in here.
What’s the biggest challenge or opportunity facing the ad industry right now?
The truth is, agencies don’t say NO enough. Brands hire us to get closer to the consumer, to help keep their brands interesting and current, to follow our instincts, and help them keep up with the speed of culture. That’s what we do, and our teams are great at it. But although we’re hired to do exactly that, we’re not always allowed to follow through with our mission. The way our industry works can get in the way of promoting great, compelling work. We suffer from over-testing, near-term expectations, a reactionary mindset, and a lack of clear vision. We need to help brands get back to basics, find inspiration from the consumer, stand for something, and find their true north. It’s our job as agencies to fight for this clarity and develop work that delivers it. This means defending our instincts. We need to be brave and remind clients of why they hired us in the first place. We need to be more confident saying NO.
What is the single most significant change you need to make in your agency in the next 12 months?
We need a return to clarity. What are we solving for? We need to push ourselves to think beyond campaigns. Beyond the scope. Beyond the budget. We need to focus on what’s right for the brand, not necessarily what is expected. It’s about creative solutions, experiences, products. In the end, it’s about solving problems. This means we need to think more broadly. Invest in innovation and diversity of perspective. Let’s rethink how we think. Let’s bring in coders, anthropologists, screenwriters, industrial designers, and artists. Great ideas can come from anywhere.
What products/services/unique skills do ad agencies offer that guarantee the industry’s survival for another 100 years?
It’s not about the survival of the industry; that’s simply a byproduct. It’s about the survival of great ideas and perspective. As long as we continue to fuel a culture that breeds and cultivates great thinkers and ideas, we as agencies can guarantee great work and a much more interesting world. As a result, our industry or some version of it will continue to be relevant for the next 100 years and beyond.
What attributes do you look for in your next generation of leaders/managers?
The model has changed. A traditional, top-down system no longer works so a top-down leadership approach won’t either. Technology has given everyone a voice, and the most relevant voice is increasingly not from the top. Our model needs to be one of collaboration and co-creation. More of a crowdsourced approach than a linear, hierarchical one. So we need leaders who can thrive in that environment. It’s a delicate balance of confidence and humility. We need them to be horizontal leaders versus vertical ones. They need to be able to lead teams of thinkers not layered departments. It’s a different perspective altogether.
If you weren’t working in advertising, what would you be doing as a career?
I would be more involved in social entrepreneurship. I would focus on cultivating ideas that create positive and sustainable social impact in communities that need it, all over the world. Some of the most powerful ideas I’ve seen come from the most unlikely folks, in the most unlikely places—people born into incredibly challenging environments with ideas that change the course of their communities. Imagine what they could do if we brought the power of our industry to their ideas.