The Mullen Lowe Corner: If only Alexander was an Ad man – Partner Content.

by George Giessen, Regional Head of Strategy at MullenLowe MENA.

You’re probably wondering after reading the headline – who is this Alexander? And why is there a queston of whether or not he should be a marketer? He is considered by many as a true military genius and was the first to realise the power of “combined arms”.
So why is Alexander the Great such an interesting subject? Alexander the Great was born in a combative world. He was more than just a leader, but an individual who saw his world differently –who challenged the existing norms to bring about change. He was a thinker and creative genius all wrapped in one.
There are lessons we can learn to better understand how to change our own combative world of advertising through Alexander.
Let’s be honest for a second. The advertising industry is going through change and it is hard to predict what is going to happen. In recent news, WPP posted their biggest stock decline in the last two decades, with no predicted growth in 2018.
In short: it’s a combative world where advertising agencies are struggling to find secure footing. And it’s into this very world we will teleport Alexander the Great – to witness what he might have done if he was an advertising great.
Integration has become a by-word for what agencies offer today. In essence, we provide clients with cross-functionality expertise neatly bundled into bespoke structures that offer tailored solutions to clients. While this might mirror the combined forces concept of Alexander the Great, he might have seen integration slightly differently.
Alexander had a diverse army with varying units specialised in certain fighting styles. But his genius wasn’t his army – but rather how he deployed his army depending on the geography he was on.
He never created a new army or tried to use a unit he wasn’t familiar with. Instead, he would deploy his army in a way that each unit worked towards its strength. And since his units were deployed correctly, his “combined force” was far more devastating than most of his enemies anticipated.
His version of integration would probably follow the same principles as the new way of advertising.
Today he would maintain a diverse set of specialised talent within his agency. He would deploy that talent depending on the environment he would be in. If he acquired an FMCG client, he wouldn’t just seek to create a whole new team, but rather leverage the existing talent to formulate a plan through learning new skillsets for battle.
For him, integration wouldn’t be about creating the “new” but rather placing the right talent in the right spot. And in doing so, he would constantly evolve that talent with a better understanding of the environments they would find themselves in.
For example: he would find a way to realise the potential of his healthcare specialists in an FMCG world … Agility. A key word we now use at MullenLowe to describe our ability as an agency where we work towards adaptation of our ever evolving landscape.
We know Alexander would have loved this word.
Like MullenLowe, Alexander would probably structure his agency to be leaner and more agile. His processes would be fluid – less layered, allowing greater diversity within his team to create new ways of working and fighting on the battle field.
He would seek ways to provide clients with bespoke solutions to their problems by maneuvering the right team and skillset by using innovative methods. His agency might have approached clients’ problems with innovative solutions that not only create new profit streams but also set new methodologies and new ways of working.
Like all agencies, MullenLowe is on its own personal journey – adapting to an ever-changing world with a clear understanding that old rules need to be broken for new rules to exist. And these new rules need to set a new standard for the way we work with our clients. Clients are internalising more and more of the functions we used to do. Tech giants are not just selling their digital platforms but consulting clients on ideas and strategies on how best to use those platforms.

As Alexander the Great once said: “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”

Whatever your journey, be that lion.

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