Sights and Sounds of Adforum 2018

A Dramatic Cacophony of Chaos


‘Agency lineup’ NYC View, Will Hamilton

‘Agency lineup’ NYC View, Will Hamilton

Will Hamilton, of Hamilton Associates, reports from last week’s 17th Adforum Worldwide Summit in New York.

Last week was the busiest week of the year for Agency Search Intermediaries and Pitch Management Consultants. Some thirty of the leading consultants gathered in New York to meet with advertising industry leaders, holding companies, independents, brand-tech, media champions, entrepreneurs, and digital pioneers.

The AdForum Worldwide Summit is a “by invitation only” program for Agency Search & Management Consultants and Global Agencies CEOs.

Representing the UK, were the AAR, Hamilton Associates, ISBA, Observatory International, Oystercatchers, and Tina Fegent Consulting, Other consultants gathered from across the globe, including:- Brand & Business Architects (Amsterdam), DNCC (Copenhagen) Breezeway (Helsinki), Pitchville (Paris), The Producer Int’l (Milan), Roth, Ryan Hayes, External View, (USA) Agency Selection (SA), Cherry Picker (Hamburg) Scopen (Madrid), and Management Consultancy-Navigare. (Sydney)

Waiting to receive the attendees in uptown and downtown New York and Brooklyn offices, (including one venue on the 84th floor of the new Freedom tower) were twenty-three Leadership teams with inspiring creative case studies and ground breaking presentations, which included a meeting update from newly appointed Joint WPP COO Mark Read, and Lindsay Pattison the WPP Chief Transformation Officer.

This years’ participating agencies included: CP+B, DDB Worldwide, Dentsu Aegis Network, Escape Pod, Fly Communications, Grey Worldwide, Havas, IBM Ix, Kiip, MDC, Mullen Lowe Group, Oath, Phenomenon, Project Worldwide, R/GA, Service Plan, SS&K, TBWA Collective, The Media Kitchen, Vice Virtue, Work & Co, WPP, and You & Mr Jones.



Eight recurring themes emerged during the week: -

  1. Top line growth for heritage agencies is increasingly hard to achieve in what was described as ‘a dramatic cacophony of chaos in the advertising market.’ Some agencies are rapidly transforming, some are already well set up to drive growth, it’s fast changing and a complex market.
  2. A feeling for some that the holding company model is broken. Agencies are reviewing the latest round of changes and looking to see what model is best fit for purpose, putting data and technology at the heart of the business. In-housing is a trend that continues.
  3. Agility and flexible working, and/or partnering with clients is fast becoming the norm. New brand platforms at speed are possible, particularly when working with the bigger consultancies, clients seem willing to pay a premium if agencies/consultancies move fast.
  4. Agencies are beginning to present a fiscal edge that focuses the organisation and communications ecosystem towards share price, as well as planning, creativity and effectiveness.
  5. There are two distinct economies – legacy brands which compete with disruptive innovators. Companies that predate the digital revolution and companies that now have asymmetrical competitors eg Amazon competes with Walmart.
  6. Voice led communications will have more prominence. Mobile first campaigns have accelerated this year, but voice is becoming prominent. Be warned by 2020, 50% of all searches on the internet will be voice led.
  7. Google and Facebook’s dominance is unwavering – despite privacy issues – a statistic we were presented showed that Google and Facebook account for 99% of all advertising growth. Amazon in many sectors is transforming the retail experience.
  8. The advertising industry is declining, digital spend is transforming the industry. Perhaps, creativity will be the last legal means of differentiation.


'Mark Read at Adforum'

‘Mark Read at Adforum’


The highlights of the week for me, were a very strong presentation by Global CEO Wendy Clark, at DDB, sharing outstanding creative work from McDonald’s, (International Women’s Day), Marmite, Skittles, and John Lewis.

A very diverse and brilliantly well presented session by TBWA Collective with a dynamic all female line-up.  It’s been three and a half years since Global CEO, Troy Ruhanen, took over and the achievements are significant. He has particularly focused on getting the gender balance right, highlighting that, when he took over, only three of the 35 country CEOs were women. Since then, the number of female CEOs is up by 15%, female CSOs by 28% and female creative directors up by 29%. And to prove the point, fantastic creative work for Amazon Alexa and Hostelworld, presented so eloquently, by London hero Helen Calcraft.

It was significant and impressive that the newly appointed joint COO of WPPMark Read came to New York to talk to the consultants, with an update on the recent changes at WPP along with Chief Transformation Officer Lindsay Pattison. Our view is that WPP are trying to be much more open. It’s ‘BAU at WPP – with a fresh flair’. They are listening hard, and ensuring they absolutely flex to their clients changing needs.

And finally, again a seminal presentation by R/GA, – who have reinvented themselves five times every nine years – it knows how to disrupt itself. There strategic presentation, ability and presence rates them truly worldclass  - a 10/10 from me.


For the Intermediaries and Consultants it’s a week of intense meetings with Leadership teams – but we return, with a desire to see – how can we assist in building topline growth for both our clients and agencies alike.  Finally – an interesting statistic presented – we touch our mobile phones on average of 2617 times a day. Is it time to call your Intermediary/ Pitch Management Consultant for some timely and ground breaking advice?


Read the Adforum Campaign Article here >

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