4 top challenges for the modern agency

At Collabosphere 2012, we gathered five experts from different agencies to talk about agency-client trends and survival strategies. Here’s a condensed transcript from one portion of that chat, focusing on the single greatest challenge facing each agency.

The participants on our “Panel Island” were: Rachel DeFriend, Director of Technology Development at Javelin; Mona Heggem, Central Desktop Project Leader at CAHG; Brenda Miller, Project Manager at St. John & Partners;Anne Marie Schiller, Global Chief Client Operations at RAPP; and Jackie Stagg, Director of Operations at e-storm.

For more insights from these panelists, check out their talk on Agency strategy: demanding clients and shifting budgets.

Sorry, ninja – didn’t make the list

What is the single greatest challenge facing your agency today?

MONA HEGGEM: We just celebrated our 50th anniversary, which is a huge milestone for an agency to achieve. We’ve had long-standing clients – one for 50 years, another for 30 years, another for 22 years. We’ve always worked under the AOR model, but now we are seeing that procurement is taking the lead on finding agencies. We have to pitch for every single job now. We’re investing so much more in our new business efforts because we have to pitch for everything; the clients are no longer going with the AOR model because procurement is running the show. We’re pitching up against 18 agencies to keep business that we would have normally gotten from the AOR model.

RACHEL DEFRIEND: I think it’s finding the resources to do the work that our clients are requesting and that keeps pushing us forward. Our agency has some awesome talent, but how do we keep it moving and keep forging forward and making sure we can be more profitable with the talent we have?

ANNE MARIE SCHILLER: For us, I think it’s pace: the pace of change in the ad space. It’s really taxing on the momentum of the agency and the people. Even when you can find great talent, we’re asking them to do a lot more than we ever used to. Pace is really taking its toll if it’s not managed well.

BRENDA MILLER: Our greatest challenge today is going from a fee-based structure to more project-based. We’re a full service agency and we were agency of record, so we didn’t have to worry about timesheets and things like that, scope of work – it was all included in the fee. At the end of the year, you would look and make sure you were profitable and you’d adjust or renegotiate your accounts. Now people are coming to you and we bid against a lot of different agencies just for project work. It’s been really difficult to scope it properly – the amount of man hours it will take, and outside resources and production dollars. We have to be really, really careful or we’ll end up losing money on those projects.

Post by Adam McKibbin

Adam McKibbin is the content marketing manager for iMeet Central. His writing has been featured in Adweek, the Chicago Tribune and The Nation, and he’s produced content for some of the leading tech brands on the Fortune 500.