Opportunities for Advertising Agencies
Coming Out Of The Pandemic

A conversation with Rob Norman and Marla Kaplowitz
 


 

Transcript

 
Speaker 1:
Hello, and welcome. Today on the Simpli.fi webinars series, Simpli.fi’s CEO Frost Prioleau sits down with Marla Kaplowitz, president and CEO of 4A’s, and Rob Norman, former global chief digital officer of WPPs GroupM, to talk about opportunities for advertising agencies coming out of the pandemic.

Frost Prioleau:
Hello, everybody. Welcome to the webcast that Simpli.fi is sponsoring today. This is Frost Prioleau, I’m the CEO of Simpli.fi, and I am super excited to have a pair of guests on who, heck, I get to learn a whole lot from and I hope you all do too. We have Marla Kaplowitz, president and CEO of the 4A’s. And in addition to her many, many years in the industry, more years than you would guess, she’s had a partic… she runs the 4A’s down, has a very, very good view of trends and things going on in the agency world. And in addition to Marla, we have Rob Norman, former global chief digital offer officer for GroupM, and a very keen observer of the digital advertising space. So, look forward to learning from both of you. And the topic today, really wanted to talk about how the ad industry, broadly, and the agency world is going to be effected by the current pandemic. We know there’s lots of negative effects on many of our partners and many of our companies today, and we want to go forward with and learn, really try to look through that and figure out what the opportunities will be coming out on the other side. I’m going to pause that. Rob, I went to a very fancy picture of you.

Marla Kaplowitz:
I know.

Frost Prioleau:
Now I got back to the real Rob.

Rob Norman:
Oh, I’m sorry. I tell you why, I was looking at fancy picture I think. Was it a graph by any chance?

Frost Prioleau:
No, it was you looking very stylish with probably a mock [tee] on or something.

Rob Norman:
Oh, okay, that’s interesting. I don’t know how that happened. All right. I don’t have one of those… I was actually switched out of my Zoom view to look at the latest [Kantar] data, because one of the features of what’s going on in the world at the moment, is it rather depends on where your product or service is sold, as to whether or not you’ve currently got a business to speak of. So, if you’re in the virtual goods business, then you’re pretty much fine, particularly if the goods themselves, the digital, as well as the channel, is digital. If you’re in the business where you’ve got no supply chain interruptions and your principle channel is e-commerce, then actually, you got a decent business also. And if you’re in a business with limited supply chain channels, and you’re sold through gas stations or through pharmacies or through supermarket stores, the food stores, you’ve also got a decent business.
Your challenge is, if your distribution is through any other channel other than those and your outlets that you go through are considered non essential, then you have a really challenging time. And I think as you look across the industry and you look across the sectors that are up, down, or sideways, it very much reflects that pattern.

Marla Kaplowitz:
I would say that’s the same for the agencies too, because I keep being asked, “Well, how are the agencies doing?” And it’s very reflective of what the composition is of their client base. So, those who have a lot of CPG clients, health care, they’re doing quite well. Agencies that have specialized over the years in more travel or tourism, even automotive, they’re struggling more.

Frost Prioleau:
So Marla, tell us a little bit about the 4A’s and the membership that you cover, because that’s quite a spectrum of agencies, I think.

Marla Kaplowitz:
Yeah, so the 4A’s has been around for over a hundred years and our role is to support advertising agencies in the US. So, our membership is made up roughly half holding company, large agencies, and half independent agencies, small to mid size, and that’s everything from creative to media to PR experiential. So, it really covers a broad group. We have over 600 members with 1200 offices, which covers essentially 85% of the media billings in the US. Then we also have a benefits group that supports them with insurance, 401k. And our role is primarily to how do we add value to our members? But also how do we help move the industry forward? And when you think about the value that our members need right now, it’s quite critical through this crisis, in really helping them understand what other agencies are experiencing, how to manage through it, how to address something as simple as the Cares Act. I’m joking. It is not simple. It’s very complicated. It’s 800 pages. I mean, just trying to figure that out.
So, we’ve been working not only with the smaller agencies to understand what they can do for loans, the larger agencies, trying to understand what they can do, where they can get some paycheck protection and the program there. It’s really pretty broad right now and whatever we can do to support them, bringing them together, we’ve really had to pivot in the same way that agencies and businesses alike have had to pivot.
Frost Prioleau: Right. Well, yeah, you get a great… I mean, your view of what’s going on in the industry with that membership is clearly very strong. And Rob, we’ve talked before. You’ve seen a trend over the last three or four years where actually the independent agencies have been doing pretty well, some of the regional agencies as well. So, what’s your take behind that and the drivers behind that?

Rob Norman:
Well, I think everyone has a general view that digital advertising democratized advertising. It gave access to a much broader range of very powerful platforms than the advertising structures of the last century, and even the first decade of this century. And so, what Google and Facebook principally did, but the whole programmatic landscape around that, together with a whole load of automation, really let agencies use technology to make up for lack of scale. And also, because so many of them were able to self serve on these technologies and people’s really powerful systems with really intuitive UIs to let them do everything from build creative, to do dynamic creative optimization, to build media plans and strategy, really allowed smaller and independent agencies to harness their entrepreneurial spirit, their local, often, relationships, their place in the community with a bunch of the deliverables that they’d been somewhat shut out from in prior areas.
And it’s certainly true that some independent agencies did quite well by defining themselves simply by what they weren’t, because the holding companies and the large global agencies got a fairly bad rap in a number of circles over the last five years or so. Now, as a holding company guy all of my career, I think most of that bad rap was wholly unjustified, but it is what it is. And I think that the independent agencies did a really good job, both in media and especially in creative, of exploiting that advantage and saying to clients, “The most senior people in our business are the people that will be looking after you. You have to believe us, because they’re the only people we have got in our business. And if you like us, that’s who you will get.” I think they delivered on that promise really well.
And I’ve got a load of admiration. I hate to name names, but people like [Eric Ma] , who is an old friend and a godfather of the independent agents sector, and people like Sharon Napier up in Rochester and so forth. These are people that do great work. They could have worked anywhere they wanted to. They chose to be independent, that their clients appreciate it, and they’re kind of pillars of the industry, pillars of the community as well. God bless them and they deserve to do well.

Marla Kaplowitz:
I think the other thing that is democratized the business, is really locate technology and location. It really doesn’t matter where you are. You can look at the VA agency-

Frost Prioleau:
Look at us today.

Marla Kaplowitz:
… in Portland, Maine. Barkley in Kansas city. I mean, these are all agencies. You got [Tombras] in Knoxville, Tennessee. I mean, these are agencies that are really growing and thriving and they don’t let geography become a barrier for them. And they have figured out how to work it, and I think moving forward, there is no barrier to geography, especially with the experience we’re all having.

Frost Prioleau:
I think that whatever barriers there were, I think you’re just getting knocked down by these X number of weeks, which we’re working from home. And so, from the impact the agencies are seeing now, what’s the… before we talk about opportunities on the other side, what are you seeing? I know you’re talking to a ton of them. What do you see and what’s the mode right now?

Marla Kaplowitz:
So, we’ve been talking to agencies… They were in triage mode. They’re in stabilization mode. And what they’re starting to do is look to what we’re calling that reconstruction phase and the future. And a lot of businesses are going through challenges right now. There’s a downturn. They’re dealing with that. They’re scenario planning. They don’t know how long this is going to go on for. Some are hoping it’s over in July or hopefully no later than that, but no one really knows. So, they’re working through it, but they’re also trying to figure out where do they need to be investing? What are the lessons they’re learning right now?
There’s some good things that are coming out of this. They are learning how to be more productive. They’re recognizing that working virtually can work. And so, working remotely is an opportunity for them to hire talent outside of their geographical location. That’s opening up possibilities for diversity. They’re recognizing there are new capabilities that they should be investing in for the future. And they need to do that to make sure that their business continues to sustain and grow.
So, it’s finding that balance of the short-term and the long-term right now, and recognizing that while everyone was hoping that this would be V shaped, well, it may be an L-shaped curve. There will be a point where we come out of this. And when we do, people are going to want to get back to business. Now, I’m not going to say we’re getting back to it, the way that we were, we’re kind of referring to it as what will the new normal be? Or the next normal. But there are opportunities for agencies to be moving forward. And, as we said earlier, if you have businesses that are thriving right now, if you have a client portfolio, your business is actually doing fairly well. I mean, we have agencies that are actively pitching prospecting. People are figuring it out, as agencies do. I always say the agency people are scrappy, they’re creative. They like to figure it out.
Frost Prioleau: And so, there’s been a lot of talk about crises or recessions really accelerating trends. I think people look back to the last few, and how they’ve accelerated digital in general. What trends, from an agency’s perspective, Rob, and both you, and Marla, what trends do you see coming out are really being accentuated in through this situation? And Rob, maybe you first.

Rob Norman:
So, I think it’s in three buckets. It’s how people will work, how consumers will consume media and what sectors are people going to lean into as consumers, or whether they’re business to business or actual consumers, lean into and lean away from. And so, Walker Smith, J. Walker Smith from Kantar, who is one of the greatest minds in our industry, talks about consumers actually not really wanting a new normal. What they want is their old normal back. But in order to get their old normal back, it comes with conditions. And the conditions in this case are what he refers to as securing the perimeter. And securing the perimeter after 9/11 was lines at the TSA, and shoe bombers, and having show photo ID to get into buildings and all the stuff that went with this. Securing the perimeter, now, is knowing your physical safety and hygiene are going to be okay, wherever you go.
Now that said, what we will see, then, is any business that can help support any of those practices is going to do super well. We’ve seen it with Zoom and others, being the poster child of the moment we live in, but also direct to consumer brands, just solid supply chains that have got contactless relationships, physically contact relationships with people, are going to do well. And other businesses are going to do less well. From a media consumption point of view, I think that the numbers for OTT and CTV viewing are through the roof. In fact, all media numbers are through the roof, except for sports viewing, which is not entirely surprising. So, news goes up, sports go down. We’ve seen that. And the question remains, is this going to be the moment, the tipping point, for the traditional [MSO] bundle and can that survive as people reevaluate the cost of sports in the overall bundle?
And also compare that with, what do I get if I add an Apple TV to a [inaudible] to a Disney Plus, to a Netflix, to an Amazon Prime. And however that math works in individual households. Now, depending on how that all shakes out, is going to have quite a significant effect on the overall availability of video inventory and how that plays through, which in turn plays a big part in how the whole market is transacted. So, we’ve seen the upfronts, I think 99.5% are going to be not in their original schedule, which could possibly lead to a calendar year TV market, which would be a first and could also possibly be the end of the [inaudible] of a futures market versus a spot market. And if the whole market shifts from futures and spot, which it was, to futures and spot and auction/real time, which it is, to all spot and auction and real time in the future, that’s going to change the dynamics of the whole way this market operates.

Frost Prioleau:
Yeah. There seems to be a ton of TV dollars at play out here, given both the upfronts as well as, it seems to me, as well as people not wanting to commit long-term budgets. So, some of the stability and flexibility seems like [crosstalk].

Rob Norman:
So, I’m not sure to what degree those TV dollars direct play. Anecdotally, and I don’t know what you hear, Marla, I hear most advertisers are wanting to take that money off the table and take it back to the bottom line and get into cash conservation mode before they’re thinking about redeploying it. So, I don’t think there’s that many of them worried about them desperately trying to get more TV money away, unless they’ve got a business model that is absolutely golden for the moment.

Marla Kaplowitz:
So, I think [crosstalk] it’s a mix. Regarding the upfront, it’s been interesting because a lot of people are saying, “Well, what can we do right now? What’s going on with sports? What’s going on with production being halted, in terms of prime time programming?” There are a lot of people are saying, “How do we shift overall?” The reality is, the market’s going to move when people want to do deals and when the networks want to do deals. And while there are a number of businesses that are going to reduce spending, aren’t going to be able to commit, going to want to delay, there are many advertisers that have been doing calendar year deals for many, many years.
So there are, and I am hearing this, there are still people that are going to be willing to do deals if there is that opportunity. So, we’ll see what happens, but it’s all about identifying the best opportunity. And that’s what it always comes down to. And if someone thinks that there’s going to be an advantage, they’ll try and take, they’ll try and move forward and get the best deal that they possibly can. There are a lot of unknowns, so they’re going to have to make a lot of assumptions moving forward.
Frost Prioleau: Yeah, it’s when people are ready to get their wallet out, I think maybe that’s the big question we’re all looking at. And to Rob’s point, wow, that really depends on location, depends on when your state may be coming out, vertical, a whole host of things.

Rob Norman:
So, that’s an interesting point right there, because we’re dealing with a few different dynamics. In 2009, no one was having the conversation about when was it going to be okay to advertise in Chicago, but not in New York or in Phoenix, but not in Los Angeles? So, this is a whole new deal. No one was saying in 2009 that I think we’re going to be okay in some place in our sector in May, but not in this sector until July, and not in that sector until maybe never. And so, if you’re running an agency or if you’re running any kind of media company at the moment, in my mind, there’s two things that you’ve got to keep in your mind, especially if you’re in the service business. We have to think about being ready when our clients are ready. And we have to be thinking about being ready, where our clients are ready.
And I think that’s going to be really vital to be very smart. One of the things that clients are looking to from their agencies now, and this is as true of the independent sector as the holding company, maybe more so, is what they want, is they want people to be super resourceful and super responsive. And they need to be super resourceful, super responsive to an even greater degree than before, because many clients are being forced into large scale furloughs of part of marketing organizations. And therefore are leaning on their marketing services/agency supply chain, even more than they were. Now, of course, the double bind for the agency business is, that long-term success comes out of being the most responsible, the most creative, the most flexible and getting things done. But the short term pain is, you’re being expected to do more work and by the way, would you mind doing it for 25% less money?

Marla Kaplowitz:
Yes, we hope not, but yes. I mean, everyone’s challenged in that area. We are hearing some independent agencies finding opportunity with their content studios, especially as some clients that have had content studios not be able to really move forward with some of their own productions. So, that’s been an area of opportunity. And they’re also seeing that there’ll be a bit of a backlog, so they’re looking forward to when that shifts, but they’re all looking for what are the different areas that they can tap into. And I’m also interested to see what happens coming out of this as it relates to the in-house teams that exist right now on the client side, as well as how that impacts the agencies and the partnerships. The pendulums are always swinging different ways and it started to swing more towards in-house. Think we’re going to start to see that come back a bit.

Rob Norman:
Well, and for one particular reason, Marla, because I think in times like this, people are desperate to shed fixed costs and there’s always a move away from fixed costs towards variable costs in everything they do. And one of the things the agency business has always allowed advertisers to do, is have this fantastic concertina of being able to load up on resource when you really need it, and move it back really, really quickly. This is true in the US, but it’s even more true in Europe, where the social costs of hiring and letting people go are infinitely higher than they are in the United States. And Canada, again, is very different from the US. The US is a unique market in that there’s almost no actual costs to letting people go, but that was very much not the same around the world.

Frost Prioleau:
Yeah, my fixed costs or my variable costs are your fixed costs, kind of approach.

Rob Norman:
Well, that’s right. In the same way that Jeff Bezos once told, I’m reliably informed, the CEO of a large CPG company. When Bezos was asked, “How are you ever going to make money doing this?” And Bezos answered, “Well, what’s your margin on X?” And the guy said, “About 16%.” He said, “Well, that’s how I’ll make money on it.”

Frost Prioleau:
Good margin for my opportunity, I think was the-

Rob Norman:
I think that’s the one, yes.

Frost Prioleau:
And I think, I mean, the other thing I thought about saying is, we don’t advertising forever. Oh, the right message to the right person. And in this environment, it’s the right message to the right person, but add onto that at the right time and at the right place. As the country comes and gets back to work here, hopefully over the next few months.

Rob Norman:
And also, Frost, of course, what we’re seeing in a lot of cases is people trying to pivot business models really, really quickly. Burger King is no longer a restaurant chain, it’s a home delivery company. And there are many others like that who are going to try and be more flexible. I think, also, there’s going to be a new category of clients. Maybe not ones that can spend huge amounts of money on media, but maybe they will. But as my sense is, the next shoe to drop in terms of stimulus bills, has got to be in areas like infrastructure, because big recessions and reconstructions will tell you, after 1929 and after World War II, the biggest client for an age is always the government, in whichever country you’re in and whether it’s state government, local government, or the federal government. And one of the very few ways of re-employing massive swathes of the workforce, history tells you, you’ve got two choices. One, you have an enormously large army that you prepare for some purpose or other, and hopefully we won’t go down that path. And the other is, you go build airports and ships and roads and all of the other bits of infrastructure that in the United States has been allowed to crumble for the last 30 or 40 years.
And so, it’s quite possible that we’ll see companies like Caterpillar and Halliburton and all of the ancillary businesses that surround infrastructure development, become very significant players in the advertising world over the next few years.

Marla Kaplowitz:
Yeah, I’ve heard someone the other day mention infrastructure and saying, “This is the perfect opportunity to be fixing roads and bridges when people are not really using them as frequently.”

Rob Norman:
It’s going to be interesting to see what we think of because we’ve gotten so used to thinking about AT&T as this mixed media conglomerate. And we’ve almost forgotten that AT&T heartland is as being an infrastructure company. Marla, you know and I know because we worked on the business together, that for many, many years, AT&T and Verizon were the two biggest CapX companies in the United States. They were spending 20 billion a year each on build, on [inaudible], on infrastructure for their networks. And I think those businesses, along with Google and a few others, are going to be doing a lot of that over the next years because the government is going to need them to do that and we’re going to need to employ people.

Marla Kaplowitz:
Yeah, absolutely.

Frost Prioleau:
And about technology, we talked about it a little bit before. What do you see and how that had been helpful to level the playing field with some of the independent agencies over the last four years? What do you think the impacts of technology are going to be coming out of this situation? And Marla, maybe go to you first.

Marla Kaplowitz:
So to me, we’re already seeing it with technology, just with the Zoom, is a good example. But just in terms of any sort of platform that’s allowing teams to connect, to communicate, to accelerate decision making and the way that people are actually collaborating. So, it’s changing productivity in some new ways, and it’s also allowing no barriers in terms of where you exist right now. So, you don’t need to physically be together in the same way that you once thought you needed to be. I think we’re going to continue to see that grow. Rob, I’m sure you have some other thoughts too.

Rob Norman:
Yeah. I was waiting for the first conversation that started off with not where’s your headquarters, but which cloud are you on? And because, you could see that happening because you could actually see people say, “I’m a little bit worried you run your whole business on AWS. I’m a retailer. I’m not sure I want my data co-mingled on the Amazon cloud. What about moving to Azure because that’s Switzerland, in the way that I think about the world.” I can imagine those conversations becoming more and more frequent. I think the technology thing at the moment, the Zoom thing, is a bit of a phony war. And it’s a phony war in that what it’s allowing people… I think it’s a case of two MVPs. One MVP is your most valuable people, your most valuable players. And the other MVP is managing to maintain a minimum viable product to keep yourself and your customers in business. So, I see a lot of that going on.
I do think the extension of that is going to be a greater tolerance in marketing service industry overall for remote working. And as Marla rightly points out, a fantastic opportunity for people to be much more inclusive about people with different physical needs, but people with different dependencies related to childcare or other generational care, not just kids, and that could be a great thing for the world of work. Because whatever anybody says, not everybody, but I do think that working from home has got a… It’s a tolerated rather than embraced notion now. And I think people have to move on.
I’m hoping that somehow the same exposure technology is going to make people a bit kinder as well, because it’s nice to me that I know Marla has a Peloton. It’s nice to me, Frost, that I know that you have a beanbag in your study in most meetings, but for this meeting [crosstalk] but I know you’ve missed it. You’ve moved it today. And it’s very important that you know that I have a baseball, where I threw out the first pitch at Citi Field behind me. So, we all have our moments. Suddenly, we’ve become intimate with each other, in a way that we haven’t before, but I think the most important thing for everybody is that there is a cloud solution for everything. And our ability as businesses to integrate with each other wherever we are, integrate with our customers wherever we are, is fantastic. And in your business, Frost, if you didn’t have a cloud, you wouldn’t allow people to self serve on your platform. It couldn’t be done, right?

Frost Prioleau:
Yeah, absolutely. From wherever they may be in their pajamas, or worse.

Rob Norman:
Preferably in their pajamas.

Frost Prioleau:
Preferably, exactly, a good day. So Marla, are you seeing any green shoots or optimism? What’s there? And maybe you mentioned it a little bit, as people are starting to think about the get back to work type rollouts. When do you expect that to happen and how should we think about that?

Marla Kaplowitz:
There definitely is optimism. And depending upon who we’re talking to, but even… We were having a conversation yesterday with two agency leaders. One is in a very strong position. Her agency has a good mix of clients. They’ve been doing a lot of pitching. She’s not had to go through any furloughs or layoffs at this point, compared to the other person who was very proactive early on, instituted furloughs. No lay offs, but furloughs, salary reductions across the whole agency. She said, “One of our values is team, and that means that we’re in it together.” But they’ve really found… Here’s where their optimism lies. They focus on their people and they are seeing how their people are really coming together to support one another. Finding ways to still bring the culture and fun and values of the company alive. And that’s really keeping people going and people are stepping in to help one another.
I’ve been amazed, just because we have such a large agency community, and there’s a lot of competition, but people are really focusing on the collaboration and the support of the industry, recognizing what everyone’s going through. And so, that’s the optimistic piece for me. And also that people are not just focused on the short-term. They do see that there is a light at that end of the tunnel. They do see that things will shift, but they’re also excited about the changes that are happening right now. And that in such… I mean, if you think about it, I mean, this is day 30 work from home for me, working remotely.

Frost Prioleau:
[inaudible] for a lot of people.

Marla Kaplowitz:
In many ways, that’s a very short period of time and a lot has changed. We have one agency member that has 25 people. They’ve always had a distributed workforce. They don’t have any office space. They’ve always had people all over the country. They’ve always used software to be able to connect. And so, they’re in a position where this is just the way they work, and now everyone’s catching up to what they do. So, I actually think there’s a good amount of optimism. This is still a very challenging time for many on a personal level. We’re still going through a significant crisis and we can’t forget that. And everyone is very sensitive to what is going on in individual’s lives. And Rob, you talk about, we’re all getting intimate views into people. And I will say, people are sharing more in different ways and you’re really learning a lot more about your colleagues. And I think that that’s great, but you also have to recognize, you don’t necessarily know what everyone is going through. And so, to be sensitive to that. So, I will say, it’s cautious optimism.

Rob Norman:
I think you’re right. I mean, if there’s 650,000 people that have been diagnosed with the virus, or some number like that, 30,000, tragically, who have lost their lives so far and probably a good deal more than that. And we’re in double digit millions of people filing for unemployment. Almost statistically, it’s impossible to be any more than one degree of separation from someone who’s had a terrible time, even if it was not you, yourself, that’s had the terrible time. And I suspect that that’s not something that’s going to go away in people’s minds for quite a while. And I believe that business is going to be, we have to conduct it with great sensitivity for a period. Having said that, what we always know about these big shocks, is that you can have periods of illusion when it appears that everybody’s winning and periods when it appears that everybody’s losing. But the fact is, there’s always some people winning and some people losing. It’s just the proportions and the degrees that change.
So there’s no question in my mind that there will be some significant winners over the next few years. And we know what kinds of businesses are likely to be those. They’re going to be the businesses that started in the right place. Cloud-based capital, light, fantastic frictionless delivery and supply systems and all of that kind of stuff. They will do super well. If you open 22,000 retail stores, it might be a bit more challenging or fatal at this point. So, different people will win, different people will lose. And I think that it’s incumbent on agencies and all of our clients to think about what aspects of their business model will reflect people’s expectation of a secured perimeter, as I mentioned before, in the world we’re entering, post this pandemic. And to realize that there are some things that are unsustainable and there are some things they should expect to be unsustainable. I mean, no one queued up to bail out the horse and carriage business after World War I.
Frost Prioleau: [inaudible] And Marla, so if you were running… I think about opportunities. If you were running an ad agency these days, an independent ad agency, how would you be positioning it for life after coronavirus here? And hopefully that’s after a V, but hey, that may be after a U or some longer period of time.

Marla Kaplowitz:
It’s focus… I can tell you the way our independent agency leaders are thinking about it. They’re thinking about how do we preserve the jobs of the majority of people that we have? How do we make sure that we pay attention to the clients that we have right now? And to do what we’ve always done, which is to not just think about today, but to think about tomorrow and the future and what are those opportunities? What are the trends? What are some of the new categories that may be coming out? And how do we take advantage of that and leverage that on our behalf? And that’s what they’re doing, because to sit and to wallow in things that are bad, is not going to do anyone any good. And the best leaders right now are focusing on resiliency and quick decision-making and knowing that they’ve got to pivot and pivot fast. And they also have to be there for their team to make sure that the team knows that they understand what needs to be done and that they’re going to help lead the way.

Frost Prioleau:
Are agencies ready to hear pitches now? Or make pitches?

Marla Kaplowitz:
They are.

Rob Norman:
Yeah.

Marla Kaplowitz:
They’re doing it. Just so you know, virtual pitching is going on. We just did a webinar last week called, Going, Going, Gone, Virtual Pitching. And we had a number of search consultants. We have some agencies. We had talked to one, they’ve done six pitches in the last month. It is happening. It is going on. Prospecting is still happening. It’s a little bit more focused on how can I help you? Not so much the selling piece of it and more on the action side, but it is still happening. And as business had shifted over the past few years from heavy [AOR] to a greater mix of project work, agencies need that work. So, that project work still exists and agencies are still in business and that is how they need to continue to thrive. So, it’s important that that does go on and there are sensitivities around how it’s done and some pitches have been paused, but it’s important that that work continues.

Rob Norman:
A friend of mine was telling me literally two days ago, that they did a very substantial pitch of just three and a half hour Teams call, Microsoft Teams call, which was a bit of a trauma, not because it didn’t work, because it worked fine, but they’d done everything on Zoom up until then. And then the idea of suddenly using a different platform for the next thing. He said but what he loved about it was that they did the pitch and they had the three or four featured speakers on the agency side. He said, but what he was able to do, for the first time, was really quarterback a pitch live, because he was able to text his fellow pitch team at various times and say, “No, come back to slide 23 and emphasize this point.” He said stuff he could never have done in the room. So, all the things that he’d spent his whole career bursting to say in the room, and a pitch he could actually say by texting the situation. I thought it was pretty sweet.

Marla Kaplowitz:
I will hope that he did not get caught texting, because we heard one search consultant say that they saw somebody texting during the meeting and it really turned them off. So, there’s that.

Rob Norman:
Well, we’ll find… I’ll report back when the [crosstalk]-

Marla Kaplowitz:
Hopefully he was sly about it.

Frost Prioleau:
Yeah, watch out for the open chat on Zoom.

Rob Norman:
Yeah, that’s a terrible idea.

Frost Prioleau:
Just right. Well, good. Well, hey, this has been super. Guys, any closing thoughts? What questions should I have asked that I forgot to along the way? Or other thoughts you might have.

Rob Norman:
Well, I think there’s one you didn’t ask, which you could have asked selfishly, so I’ll ask it for you. And that is, if the media market changes to become more of a spot than a futures market going forward, does that also mean that there’s going to be a progression in the inventory that’s available programmatically? Which of course changes a lot, in terms as we’ve seen already. And I think the answer is yes and it will. So, I think that’s a trend that will continue. And I think the role of technology in the transacting and the clearing of media inventory is going to be among those trends that continues to accelerate.

Frost Prioleau:
That’s great, Rob. Marla?

Marla Kaplowitz:
I would agree with that. And that’s kind of back to Rob’s earlier point about the democratization. That’s where independent agencies have been able to start thriving, particularly in the area of media with programmatic, because it’s the great equalizer.

Frost Prioleau:
Right. A small [by] can be targeted just as effectively as a very large by.

Marla Kaplowitz:
Well, clout doesn’t matter in that environment.

Frost Prioleau:
What’s that?

Marla Kaplowitz:
Clout doesn’t matter in that environment.

Rob Norman:
So, the conclusion [crosstalk]… You’re trying to tell me we’ve gone from clout to cloud?

Frost Prioleau:
Very good.

Marla Kaplowitz:
Leave it to Rob for the good quip.

Frost Prioleau:
Yeah. Well thank you both. Really a fantastic conversation. Appreciate your time. And thank you all listeners for joining us, and we may do it again sometime.

Rob Norman:
Good to see you.

Marla Kaplowitz:
Thanks Frost.

Frost Prioleau:
You got it, bye bye.

Marla Kaplowitz:
Thanks Rob.

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