Why agile marketing matters and the intersection of insights and creative

July 28, 2021 | By: Brendan Flaherty, Writer, Brand Content

This is ‘My best advice,’ a series that asks advertising experts to share key learnings from their career journeys, the best advice they’ve ever received, and insights to help grow brands and businesses.

Amanda Morrissey, Global President of iProspect, has a photographic memory. “I’m naturally a very big-picture, creative type thinker,” she said on a recent call, from her home in the UK. “But if I’ve seen something written down—I can remember the operational details, the rigor that sits behind it. So it feels like I’ve got this balance between big-picture and detail thinking.”

That balance serves her well at iProspect, which is focused on performance-driven brand building. In March 2021, the new media agency brought together dentsu companies, iProspect and Vizeum. Now, they’re positioned at the intersection of technology, commerce, content, data, and culture. As their Global Director of Commerce, Damien Lemaitre, said, “Marketing today intersects with all other areas and disciplines—entertainment, music, politics, all of that. So, understanding how to integrate that into your marketing and your business is critical.”

Overall, according to Amanda, their “premise is that all media is performance.” As she works towards proving that premise in today’s ever-shifting advertising landscape, she reflects often—when she isn’t wakeboarding—on a piece of customer-centric marketing advice she received earlier in her career.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and how has it shaped the way you think about helping customers grow their brands and businesses?

I’ve got two. The first is more traditional. Years ago, I worked on a project with this guy who was very entrepreneurial. He was building an accelerator for a financial institution. His big thing was to always put yourself in the position of your client. Glaringly obvious, I know—put yourself in somebody else’s shoes sounds really simple and easy to do. But it was a real eye opener for me at the time.

I was working for a creative agency then, and they tended to think their creative idea would be the biggest and the best idea. I’ve worked on the client side, too, so I have that other perspective of how you get things sold into an organization, and what success really looks like—and it’s not just that one advertising campaign. I’ve been really lucky to do a lot of transformational work in advertising—setting up new companies, new propositions, digital transformation. And thinking always from that client perspective, and putting yourself in their position—not just organizationally, and from a brand angle, but from a personal angle—has been really helpful to understand how to get things off the ground. And more importantly, how we, as agencies who work on a much broader scale, can really help clients grow their businesses in meaningful ways.

That advice is very Amazonian, in terms of customer obsession and working backward from the customer. You mentioned you had two pieces of advice that inspire you. What’s the second one?

I do lots of action sports. I’m big into surfing, snowboarding, wakeboarding, anything death-defying. And I did have a really bad accident once. I was cable wakeboarding. Basically, you go around a lake and you hit jumps, and you do tricks off the back of them, and I did that, and I knocked myself out and woke up in the hospital. And then, when I tried to get back in the water again, I was actually quite nervous, and the instructor told me: “Amanda, if your hair isn’t wet, you’re not trying hard enough.”

And I love that, and I’ve kept it with me, too. For me, that means really putting yourself out there, being prepared to take risks. I take this quite seriously when I think about client work, really pushing yourself and being prepared to fail. And if you do fail, then you learn, and you pick yourself back up and you get on. But you take the learning, and you just keep trying and trying to perfect it. So, both of those pieces of advice have been really important to me, and are kind of the fabric of how I build relationships and how I work all the time—in terms of agile marketing and across the board.

What is agile marketing?

There’s agile in terms of—move quicker and get to solutions quicker—and then, the other side of that is more about audiences, which are changing all the time.

We’ve got a pitch meeting in a week, and the brief was: “We want an agile workshop.” They didn’t mean “agile” in a project management approach to agile. They just meant—can you respond really bloody fast? So, we’re in a world where clients have to move faster, and they need agencies who can respond quickly to complex challenges. That means, in a team, you’ve got to have real subject matter experts that know what their role is, and can jump in, know where they can add value, understand a brief, and get to a solution really fast. Then there’s “agile,” in terms of reaching and engaging audiences.

What we’re seeing in some of the big strategy work we’re doing at a global level is that audiences’ preferences and patterns are constantly changing. Their relationships to brands are shifting all the time. The way they make purchase decisions is shifting—it’s not a consistent, nor linear process. So, for us in that instance, the agility in advertising is number one: being able to understand an audience and the signals that audience gives off, and then being able to pivot your campaign plan to make sure you’re at the most optimum space in the shopping journey to be able to give them either the information they require, or help them make a purchase.

So, it’s building very agile plans that can move and shift and get optimized very quickly in flight, and then being able to build agile content that you can use in different formats, as you are moving your campaign layouts. It also means having a very clear measurement framework so you’ve got the agility to start and stop, in order to provide more value for the consumer and bigger return for your client. I’d like to get more strategic, in terms of how do you get more agile in telling stories and building relationships with customers, but I think for now clients are asking us to be quicker off the ground.

Your work in performance-based brand building is exciting. Can you talk about what you’re most excited about, as you look to the future of the industry?

In the past, we’ve often struggled in creative with gaining that clear insight that can enable that creative team to deliver that groundbreaking work that is going to drive the brand forward and win awards. And now, we’re in a world where we’ve got really brilliant data science capabilities that can deliver better creative. I think the insight, the thinking, the ideas that can get created from data and AI, and the way that surfaces itself is really exciting. I came from a world where if you told a creative director they were going to work with a data scientist, they would’ve questioned you. But now, it’s just natural. So, I think that combination is real magic, and I think we’re going to see that accelerate, as we move forward.