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Advertising agencies must evolve or expire

ADVERTISING agencies have to evolve or risk becoming extinct, says The Brand Agency chairman and managing director Ken James.

Mr James said the advertising industry had changed greatly since he entered it in 1969.

“It’s still a labour intensive industry but technology has certainly changed. We’ve had to become more knowledgeable and quick to change,” Mr James said.

“Research shows consumer buying habits can change in just three months. Clients also now want more for less. In the old days clients just used ad agencies to create ads. Now they use us as a marketing department.

“Clients want to know we care as much about their success as our own,” he said.

Mr James said at the end of the day all ad agencies offered was “advice about what the consumer was looking for”.

“We have to become business partners with our clients – more so today than ever before.”

Mr James said new technologies such as the Internet were only now entering the scene.

“An ad agency has to change with the times. We have to understand the new areas of communication and be prepared to use and promote them,” he said.

“My great concern is that everything is moving too quickly. How can the consumer keep up? It’s an evolution, but one that is happening quicker all the time.

“Big businesses recognises the need to move into electronic commerce but I think they are doing it too quickly.

“We Australians pick up pretty quickly on changes but it will still take time.”

Mr James said the long lunch, once an industry staple, had been one of the first evolutionary casualties.

“Clients want to be able to call me at 1:30 in the afternoon and have me there to solve a problem. They don’t want to be told I’m out at lunch.”

Mr James said, despite his management commitments, he still kept a client load.

“Over the past few years I’ve kept handling RAC and the Health Department of WA. However, my main job is to direct the business in conjunction with our six partners,” he said.

Mr James also spends ten days a month in the agency’s Melbourne office.

Brand is the only WA agency to have an eastern states office.

It was created when Bunnings, one of the agency’s largest clients, moved into the eastern States’ market six years ago.

“You can’t run an agency by remote

control. I don’t believe you can be in business and not have a hands-on role with your clients and people,” he said.

Mr James said, despite the success of WA’s business sector, the local advertising industry had suffered hard times.

“I would say between $40 million and $50 million of the advertising spend left and went east,” he said.

Among the most noticeable defectors were Challenge Bank, after being taken over by Westpac, and the Swan Brewery.

Despite this, Mr James remains confident about the quality of the local industry.

“The WA advertising industry in terms of thinking and creative product is as good as any from the eastern states.

Mr James entered the advertising industry straight from school, joining Compton Advertising in Sydney.

After four years with Compton and some time with an industrial firm, Mr James came to WA in 1975.

He spent thirteen years with John Gill Advertising before moving to McCann Erickson.

In 1991 McCann Erickson merged with the Thompson Partnership to form The Brand Agency.

In the past eight and a half years Brand has grown from sixteen staff and billings of $8.5 million to an organisation with sixty-six staff and billings of $65 million.

It is currently ranked WA’s second largest advertising agency in the Business News Book of Lists.

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