Ramsey Naja: Any spare change? It’s time to rethink our modus operandi

Ramsey Naja is CCO at JWT MENA

It is odd  to find, that, in these rapidly changing times, the way the majority of agencies operate has actually changed very little. Yes, I know, I know, digital has changed this, that and the other but, intrinsically, the actual modus operandi remains as stubbornly stuck in its ways as a grouchy old man with a bad attitude. Think about it: for all our posturing and talk about ‘change’, the industry motto seems to be closer to ‘steady on, old chap’ or, worse, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

The truth is, it is ludicrous to say it is broke, coz it ain’t. It might not be exactly purring along like a beautifully tuned Bentley coupé – indeed, it probably looks more like an old hand-me-down Buick patched up with Chinese aftermarket parts, chugging along in a cloud of black smoke and followed by a posse of eager mechanics – but it still works. Unfortunately, it works for the wrong reasons, namely the fact that many of our clients’ modus operandi haven’t changed much either.

You see, the Big Unchanged is not where we look: most of the ‘change’ talk has been about the creative teams’ makeup, digital integration, collaboration and partnerships. Frankly, all these have been subjected to so many revolutions they now look like Bolivia. Mr. Static is elsewhere. In fact, he sits on the business side.

Take a look at how our business units operate, and what will you see? “Steady as she goes, me old chum,” that’s what. The same lame strata, the same tired formula of “teams mirroring the client’s structure”, the same stodgy way of going about our business, oblivious to the fact that today speed, agility and, crucially, the output itself is more important than the transactions.

This has meant that, in most established agencies, we are lumbered with stiff business superstructures which, instead of adding value, just add time. Honestly, I can’t but sympathise with clients: whatever your request – big, small or incidental – it has to go through an intense machinery which often has the added value of a parcel delivery service. And this is where change is needed: at a time when hardly any consumer goes through an agent to book or buy a service of any kind, it is time we reconsider how we deal with the middleman.

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