Monthly Review – May

Our Monthly Round-up of the key pieces in Marketing for May – we’ve chosen five key articles and a podcast. If you missed any of them – have some time, they are all well worth a catchup.

Our Round-up includes Ten Takeaways from the 20th Adforum Summit that took place in New York in May.

Here are our May highlights:-

1.       Our top pick this month, and it’s a piece by the Prof Mark Ritson on whether you can achieve long and short marketing goals at the same time. It’s a well written thought provoking piece.

Here is the link:

2.       Secondly, we’ve picked an article from the HBR this month. Traditionally, the most reliable way for a firm to find its next wave of growth was to apply the capabilities of its core business in an adjacent market. But a new pattern has begun to emerge. More firms are learning the art of building large second cores – what Bain’s Zook and Allen call engine twos.

Here is the link:

3.       Thirdly, we’ve picked a second piece from the HBR this month on Digital transformation. Many companies struggle to reap the benefits of investments in digital transformation, while others see enormous gains. What do successful firms do differently? Marco Iansiti and Satya Nadella describes the five stages of digital transformation.

Here is the link:

4.       Fourthly, we pick a piece form the Creative Salon on the rise of chief client officers. While the role isn’t new, it’s been enjoying a resurgence. Ian Darby seeks why, and what do they do anyway.

Here is the link:

5.       Fifthly, we pick the Digital Native substack which is just geniusly curated by Rex Woodberry, a partner at Index Ventures. This piece looks at the Cash App which has been the #1 finance app in the App Store for five years running, has 80 million users, and last year was the 8th-most-downloaded app in the U.S. across all categories.

Here is the link:

6.       Sixthly, we’ve picked a WARC Podcast on How digital brands grow. This piece looks at the laws of growth put forward by Ehrenberg Bass Institute and others, but includes a new narrative from Tom Morton Global CSO of RGA in New York. Tom reconciles the two of the biggest forces in brand building, how brands grow and how big digital internet brands grow. It’s an excellent well thought piece of research.

Here is the link:

Our Adforum Summit Special:


Having attended Adforum for the last 8 years, this New York summit was one of the best attended, most fruitful, and packed with thought leadership. In a week of back to back meetings – 48 consultants from across the world saw 22 agency presentations, including some shorter speed-dating sessions with smaller independent agencies. What you notice immediately in New York is that there is much less traffic and it’s easier to get around. A full time return to office mode is only just happening in New York – we are noting that in London agency presentations are infinitely better for those whom are back in a full time office mode. Packed with the latest buzzwords, we intersected, we doubled down, we deep-dived, we even met a Sugarbusher, at least we no longer have to ‘circle back’.

Here are our Ten Takeaways from across the Adforum Summit in New York:

1.       Growth is the Primary Objective

After two years of an effective slowdown in the industry. Most agencies were robustly reporting much improved figures for 2021 over 2020. An interesting stat, in the US alone, more than 5.5m new companies were registered. So, 2021 was the year of corporate startups in the US – that’s bound to be good news for agencies as those startups will need agency help sooner or later.

2.       The Metaverse and Web 3

It’s causing a marketing cacophony and whilst some believe it more than others, other riducule it for being overhyped. Some brands are experimenting dipping toes in the water, others it’s a step too far. We saw some great examples, from Metaverse to Multi-verse, everyone seems to have a differing point of view. David Jones, founder and CEO of The Brandtech Group commented “What will make the metaverse work will be the ecosystem that grows up around it.”

3.       Transformation of Agencies into Consultancies

We saw a number of agencies making this move – most notably Huge, the brandtech group, and new start-up Proto. Positioning themselves as either ‘technology-based marketing services companies’, the ‘disruptive brand experience company’ or ‘at the intersection of brand, technology and experience’ It’s such an exciting space for these new consultancies – that are just getting started.

4.       Tech is driving effectiveness

The intersection of brand tech and experience would appear to be the fertile sweetspot where a number of the consultancies are trying to position themselves. They are ruthlessly delivering communications powered by data and dashboards. One of the agency groups shared its vision that it wants to ‘reframe marketing as a valuable service by building tech that puts data to work — creatively, precisely and responsibly.’

5.       The C Suite needs mentoring

Another trend we certainly picked up in the number of consultancies challenging the traditional company board – accelerating them along a marketing journey with mentoring. It’s powerful, high end expensive consultancy in the pursuit of corporate growth.

6.       Purpose

Purpose came up, and we met one agency totally devoted to purpose. ‘Purpose is the new digital’ its what they do and there are six aspects to purpose.

7.       Right sizing for growth

We continue to see the growth through M&As which in New York is being led by Stagwell, with more than $200million to invest in new brands each year this looks set to continue.  A few of the holding companies continue to merge their heritage agencies with mar-tech operations.

8.       Office becoming a Campus

As work returns to near normal we are seeing the office become more of a campus. It’s a place to meet rather than a place to live extended hours, though we do see stronger compelling presentations from agencies that are full time back in the office.

9.       Creativity is more important than ever

The pandemic limited the ability to deliver some of the best work. Post pandemic creativity is more important than ever and though – we expect Cannes to be a bit of damp squib, it may take a year or so to see more of the award winning work. That said it was ‘chapeau’ Amazon and Lucky Generals for their Super bowl spot.

10.   Staff need to be valued

We saw a trend that if staff aren’t valued they simply move on. It’s not only about their salaries; they’re wanting to work in agencies where they can succeed and be recognised by their agency leaders. Holding companies have a role to attract the very best talent, but also try to retain them.

The Consultants at 3 WTC


Back to Henley: It’s a short week due to the Jubilee Celebrations, plenty of bunting, boating, scones, clotted cream, jam, tea, cake – Jubilee themed parties. Congrats to HM the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee.

We’re here to help you with your agency resourcing structures, agency reviews, evaluations and benchmarking to improve your marketing performance, do get in touch – for anything we may assist you with.

Kind regards,


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