The Three P’s of Running an Advertising, PR, Digital, or Mobile Agency. How Does Your Agency Stack Up?


I am lucky to have a unique perspective because I began my career working on new business at major agencies in Canada and the U.S. I have also conducted agency reviews for a number of companies including Jenny Craig, Villeroy & Boch, and Raley’s Supermarkets.

My belief is that agencies are run with conflicting emphasis on three P’s:  profitability, product and people.

So where does your agency stack up on the three P’s? What’s most important to you? What’s your priority for running your agency? Profits, Product or People?

I believe that multinationals are run strictly by the bottom line, they are publically traded. Often, an agency holding company will house a number of their agencies in the same office tower for the reduced real estate costs. You can do a search in an office tower.

I recently sent an email to a friend of mine who ran a local office of a large multinational agency.

I got a quick bounce back email saying they were no longer with the organization and gave me two internal people to contact. The message was it was short and clinical, five lines in all. The email didn’t display much heart. In this current economic environment, that type of message has made me respect the agency less. We all know how the body count in the business is down dramatically, so is dignity.

I would have preferred an automated response the company that said that “This (person) is no longer with our agency. We really valued their contributions when they were part of our organization. If you want to connect with them here is their personal email.”  Which would be shown.

Maybe it’s just me but, I believe that companies without a real heart don’t produce strong teams or strong work. They lose their souls over time. Heart isn’t in rhetoric; it comes in actions and behaviors.

Any organization run by HR and legal will produce compromise and stifle innovation in the long run.

I have also met with many mid-sized agencies where the numbers run the shop. The financial people dictate the salaries of new hires. Due to financial pressures, it has often resulted in the loss of the key middle layer of Account Supervisors and Account Directors.

You get the principals and puppies. The principals don’t have enough time to mentor and groom and the middle layer, is not there to model upon. The puppies are wonderful but they can’t help clients from getting fired.

In these situations who is watching the clients back? Who is motivating the young people to grow?

Lastly, I have encountered agencies that tell me it’s all about the product. These are the type of agencies that are creatively driven. On occasion they turn me down on submitting for an agency review because they feel the client or category won’t lead to great creativity.

So what does the product mean in today’s advertising world? Is it a creative TV spot, a great digital or search presence?  Is it an innovative business plan or a sales building social media strategy, if there is such a thing?

I believe that you find the answers in great thinking and great thinking only that comes with a focus on people. Thinking leads to the big idea and big ideas cause innovation. Creativity is not focused in solution, it’s just eye candy and we have all been there with our happy faces.

In my opinion the greatest P is people. It is the environment that produces the best BIG IDEAS.

So let’s think about today. What type of environment will the Millennials that you hire help increase profit and produce the best work?  How will you motivate them?

What are their perks?  A profit place or a people place. It is a no brainer to me.

How does your firm stack up? What is most important to you? Profits?  Product? People?

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Watch: How to Rise Above the Crowd.


3 thoughts on “The Three P’s of Running an Advertising, PR, Digital, or Mobile Agency. How Does Your Agency Stack Up?

  1. Agree with what you’ve said Hank. This is a people business and the most successful firm owners understand that “stars” — those talented people, motivated to win and improve, while coaching and helping their colleagues — drive success. They attract new business, they attract other stars and current clients want them on their account. Find a star and hire her/him.whether it’s in the budget or not. ..

  2. i agree with you hank. people are a very crucial link to any successful business. i work in an agency where people are the least important, thus the company has just been going down hill. this has had a huge impact on the quality of work. i think if we where to implement a format of giving the people more attention we would be better off.

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