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 Nigel Morris is Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer at Dentsu Aegis. His big message at EffWeek 2017 – lean into both change and transparency.

Nigel leverages his years of experience to provide an advertising agency leader’s forecast on the changing face of marketing. He highlights the hard work that is involved in navigating the current landscape but is upbeat about the huge benefits available.

This video is 25 minutes long. If you don’t have enough time to watch it all today, you can also watch a short four-minute interview with Nigel, intercut with his talk.

Key Learnings

Find out:

The challenges advertising agencies face
The compass and the radar: How Dentsu Aegis navigated the changing marketing landscape
The digital economy and its effect on people
How advertising agencies must re-envision themselves around data and people
How to connect brands with passion


The challenges advertising agencies face

(timecode 1.10)

We are going through difficult times. There is a prevailing notion that advertising no longer works and that agencies are at best irrelevant and at worse, downright corrupt. But Nigel’s contention is that advertising is in fact, working brilliantly for some companies. The services that agencies will be able to deliver in the future will have a more measurable business effect. The issue is that agencies do not have a god given right to be the ones delivering those services. Those who are successful will be the ones who understand and navigate these major challenges of our time:

  • Digital is still widely misunderstood and seen as a channel
  • The supply side of marketing has become completely atomized and fragmented
  • The speed of change is huge
  • People are overestimating the short term gains and underestimating the long-term
  • Having lots of different suppliers exacerbates the issue

Illustration of a compass with the words "You need a media compass" from Nigel Morris' talk on advertising agencies at EffWeek 2017

The compass and the radar: How Dentsu Aegis navigated the changing marketing landscape

You need a compass and a radar to navigate this.

(timecode: 5.46) Dentsu Aegis constructed their first ‘compass’ in 2001 when they mapped media consumption from 1900 until 2020. They forecast that by the end of 2001 80% all media consumption would be digital. That drove their strategy and direction as an advertising agency.

The compass they constructed in 2015 was predicated on the idea that the media environment and world have become interconnected, interdependent and transparent. We can research anything via our mobile phone, effectively the consumer can look at every single market without moving.

So, the conditions of perfect competition now rule within the economy where consumers and businesses have equal power. A demand-based economy where the markets are made by people. Their compass in 2015 dictated that Dentsu Aegis must become a digital economy business organised and engineered around people.

The digital economy and its effect on people

(Timecode: 10.00) There is a lot of negativity now about this.

Illustration - we have to create a digital econmy that works for everybody. From Nigel Morris talk on advertising agencies at EffWeek 2017

Although a billion people in the developing world people have been taken out of poverty, the digital economy is not working for everyone. For the first time in 100 years, the gap between rich and poor has widened. The digital revolution has been great at generating wealth and terrible at spreading prosperity – we need to address that.

We cannot foresee all the benefits and consequences, or the way people will behave in the future. Sony built two jacks into the Walkman because they couldn’t believe anyone would want to listen to music on their own. People and what they want will continue to dramatically change.

Illustration showing a frog leaping out of boiling water and the caption 'lean into change and transparency' from Nigel Morris' talk on the advertising agency at EffWeek 2017

Agencies must re-envision themselves around data and people

Brands and agencies need to understand people and to do that they need the right data.

(timecode: 14:00) Dentsu Aegis’ vision is to re-envision brands entirely for this digital economy. Agencies have to provide different services to achieve that.

(timecode: 14:42) The right question is not ‘What media are you using?’ It should be a question about people. The right question is whether you really understand the people you are talking to? Do you have the right data and the right capabilities to do that? Media usage is useless without media effectiveness.

Connecting brands with passions

(timecode 18:15) It’s not all about the algorithm, people are still human. The critical thing to ask is how you can connect brands with people’s passions. The more you know about people the more you can connect accurately to that passion.

But the more addressable and personalised you can be the better the message has to be.

This is where creativity comes in, but it’s a different role from the one creativity played in the past. We have to work out how to do that – and that’s hard.

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Bridget Angear, Joint Chief Strategy Officer at AMV BBDO

“It’s great to see the IPA in the UK bring the whole industry and particularly the trade bodies together to focus on effectiveness. This new Marketing Effectiveness initiative will enable people across the industry to work together to build on best practice.”

David Wheldon, Chief Marketing Officer, RBS

“Effectiveness is a team sport, so it was great to see the industry in the widest sense, come together. In an increasingly diverse and fragmented world, only by using all parts of the brain will we solve effectiveness challenges and design our campaigns to deliver short and long term value. That’s why what happens next is important – if the IPA can help facilitate progress on this with a long-term initiative around Marketing Effectiveness, we’ll definitely crack it.”

Bart Michels, Global CEO Kantar Added Value and Country Leader Kantar UK

“The time spent at #EffWeek was extraordinarily effective. It was great to hear the diverse views from all areas of the industry. All tied together with the common themes of accountability and effectiveness.”

Andrew Canter, Global CEO, BCMA

“It has been a privilege to be part of the inaugural Effectiveness Week. The agenda is one which we at O2 UK feel passionately about. To see and hear perspectives across the industry demonstrates how the breadth of marketing effectiveness is increasingly being valued within businesses. Data, insight, social, customer experience, test and learn, ROI, these are all fundamentals and were covered expansively at the event”.

Sandra Fazackerley, Marketing & Consumer, Telefónica UK Limited

“The full week of effectiveness events brought into clear focus the need for marketers to use data and insight to achieve the key business objectives of growth and profits. Marketers today are in a better position to quantify their knowledge of customers and measure the ability of investments in marketing to increase brand and shareholder value.”

Chris Combemale, Group CEO, DMA