What's The Point of an Agency?

apple marketing vp Tor Myhren on stage at cannes

It’s Cannes Lions 2023 and that is the one time of the year that marketing agencies get their day in the sun! There’s an argument nowadays whether agencies are as important as they once were due to disruptions from social to AI, and that raises the question; what’s the point of an agency?

Agencies are forever

Perhaps the most important marketer at Cannes this year is Apple’s Tor Myhren, who shared his belief that there will always be advertising agencies and directing them to continue to challenge rather than agree.

Tor Myhren, Apple’s vp of marketing communications, relayed a number of tips and insights he picked up while working within the world’s highest-value company and brand since 2016, as well as his previous stint at Grey.

His speech began with the mission statement “Agencies are forever,” while also offering his views on ways shops and their clients could work better together.

Be the outsider

The key takeaway from his speech is that as an agency person or freelancer, your purpose when working with clients is to be the outsider. Quoting Myhren, “That’s the reason we have an agency. You can pay anyone to agree with you—that’s not very interesting,” he added. “It’s way easier to pull back than to push further, so push further on your own.”

And because they act as “an outsider” to each client’s business, he believes agencies have a “superpower” to tell “concise and compelling” stories, while calling on strategists to be “brutally objective” when making decisions around work.

“The more that you set something up, the less we trust you,” he said. “Just get to the end.”

Myhren believes that more creative companies will in-house elements of production, with brands aiming to “control” their own destinies. He cited Apple’s pivot during the pandemic to create virtual events for its regular product launch announcements starting with developer conference WWDC in 2020 as an example of a brand taking direct control.

That included developing the computer-generated environments chief executive Tim Cook appeared against in a virtual representation replicating the Steve Jobs Theater, where they usually take place.

Trusting your instincts

Myhren also advised the audience to trust their instincts, and revealed that Apple as an organization never tested its creative prior to release, with Myhren adding “No matter how big or small your creative organization is, I think we become too reliant on other people to make our work,” he said, adding that creativity must be “a part of your [company] culture.”

Turning his attention to Apple’s distribution of advertising around the world, Myhren claimed that “media is art” and that when positioning any ad, a company should consider how to “make whatever space better” and releasing ads that did not “pollute” their environment. He shared examples of Apple’s own creative, including 40-foot bespoke double-sided stickers made for some of its storefronts.

Creatives should first and foremost, have fun

He closed by opining that “we don’t have enough fun” in the industry to produce “great” and “optimistic” creative, but noted that businesses must “choose your own ways” to do that.

I think that’s arguably the most important aspect to being the creative world - either as an agency worker, freelancer or in-house. Creative comes from having fun and passion in what you’re doing.

What do you think is the future of the agency? and creative in general?

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