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Big Agency CEO's have Gone AWOL Around Big Issues

By David Hovenden, B&T Magazine

Atomic212’s founder and CEO Jason Dooris has published a treatise on the current state of the marcomms industry in Australia and had a fair stab at predicting what successful agencies will look like in 2016 and beyond.

Dooris told B&T the book, titled The Digital Lunchbox 2016, was initially the product of his efforts to map out for his own understanding where the marketing industry was at and where it might be heading.

“The truth of the matter is we’ve relaunched this business because there is a need for change in the market,” he said.

The book, which only takes a few hours to read all of its 192 pages, is graphically driven and neatly summarises many of the more complex issues besieging the industry often as succinctly as a paragraph or two.

Dooris joins a chorus of voices pointing out that agencies persisting with a remuneration model “developed by Don Draper” have simply become too expensive and out of touch.

“Many agencies have lost their way, have failed to maintain relevance, are too expensive and have lost their edge. Many agency leaders … seem blissfully unaware of the dramatic scale of change going on around them. Many agencies scramble for awards to prop up regimes that have simply lost connection with their customers, while big agency CEOs have gone AWOL around the big issues and questions,” Dooris writes.

When asked by B&T whether he thought publishing his thoughts as candidly as he has was a courageous move, Dooris responded by saying “any agency that hasn’t changed its model in 10 years despite the unbelievable level of change that has occurred over that time is really in a lot of trouble. So in for a penny, in for pound.”

Among his criticisms of the industry, Dooris singles out STW – know merged with WPP – as symptomatic of the malaise the big networks all suffer.

“To date, agencies tend to define the integrated agency as any company sits within a parent holding company.

“Seating people from different businesses together or on the same floor is in no way integrated. True integration comes about when agencies combine businesses goals and targets through a centralised strategy and operational platforms. The reason we need to use the word integration is because we have created hundreds of vertical units that are impossible to integrate.”

Dooris does say the lack of transparency and the existence of out and out fraud which was highlighted throughout 2015 is only a temporary malaise and that the industry will self-correct.

Dooris also writes that “Australia is at a crossroads, and it appears that innovation and science are the answer”.

Describing Atomic212 as the only full service business in Australia to have started out as a search specialist, and as such accountability and performance lie at the core of everything we do, Dooris told B&T that the difference between his agency and a pure play creative agency was that he would always consider the channel first then work on an idea for communicating via that channel.

“We always think about how we attribute a sale to a channel,” he said.

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