Industry Snapshot: VMLY&R’s Georges Barsoum

Georges Barsoum is the CEO MENA at VMLY&R

We are living in an era where almost every industry has been and still is being disrupted. Nothing is still the same, and everything is still being ground by a fast-paced evolution driven by the rapid change in technology and its consequent impact on people’s lives.

Having said this, the whole marketing ecosystem has changed, and consequently the agency model. Before addressing how that has changed, let’s state the constants. Two things have remained the same: 1) we exist to help our clients grow; and 2) we deliver solutions through creativity. But everything in between has changed and will most probably continue to evolve.

This change took place on several levels: engagement philosophy, agency structure and delivery expectations.

On engagement philosophy, we have moved from a brand-centric approach to a client-centric approach. This is not to undermine brandcentricity, but rather to signal that it is not enough in today’s world. And that is why, in order to ensure success, we engage with our clients on several fronts: integrated marketing solutions, customer experience transformation, and business transformation.

The aforementioned had a direct consequence on our agency’s structural model at VMLY&R. We no longer operate around the traditional three-department structure of account management, creative and planning. We rather operate with multifunctional integrated teams with customer experience, technology, and data at the centre. This also has had big implications on new capabilities/offerings, and on the quality/proficiency of talent at the agency.

That said, our clients’ expectations of delivery have changed. In today’s world, we are expected to be very agile to address the fast pace of business requirements, and to always deliver and optimise on  measurable metrics in a world where real-time data rules.

Technology has disrupted the way people live and has created new cultures. People today want a lot of things and they want them now. They want to share rather than own, they want to subscribe rather than buy. And business buckles under the weight of culture that reinvents itself every 30 hours.

How can brands withstand the winds of the new 24-hour cycle? How can we grab six seconds of attention when 64,000 hours of Netflix are watched every minute? How can we break through when we have an onslaught of alerts that bombard our screens? In net, people don’t have time for forgettable brands. Brands can’t be defined by corporate identity and random spots any more.

They have to create stories, memories and relationships. They have to create a collection of memorable experiences that affect culture. And that is what we call a connected brand at VMLY&R.

Today, if we do not have the courage to take a stand around a clear brand purpose that matters to people, if we do not have the courage to advocate for people and work hard to eliminate the latency, frustration, and tension in their lives, we will not earn their attention and loyalty. We need to be inspired by people instead of just trying to inspire them. We need to make culture instead of bending to it.