The revolution’s imminent: Jason Dooris on the death of loyalty and a new agency framework

Jason Dooris says a revolutionary spirit is engulfing customer behaviour and agency business models.

In 2016 we passed a tipping point, says Jason Dooris, founder and CEO of full-service agency Atomic212. Previously, people were more or less ‘happy’ to sit with their dissatisfaction. Now, if people are unhappy or dissatisfied, they’ll do much more than just vocalise it, they will demand change and see that through.

“That is an enormous discovery,” Dooris tells Marketing. “I believe, because we’re now seeing the manifestation of that in all of our businesses, in how we operate, in global politics and so forth, and it happens very quickly now.

And, he says, another thing happened in 2016: the death of brand loyalty.

 

Marketing: What happened to brand loyalty?

Jason Dooris: It doesn’t exist. We buried that. The marriage between customer and brand needs to be remarried daily. 10 years ago, people started becoming a bit promiscuous. Now, it’s kind of meaningless. We’ve partly educated people through spending so many years of buying their loyalty – that became the norm – but now they’ve realised that so many of the things we’ve told them as brands haven’t been quite as they’ve told us.

Global politics has shaped and shook the foundation of what they believe to be truth and honesty, and the people that are now electing to safeguard them on their journey through life are in fact not always as they seem. The very threads that weave together the cloth of trust have been changed. With that, loyalty is gone.

Now we, as brands, need to work a lot bloody harder to try to win and retain them as customers.

That’s the fundamental discovery. It’s coming together in so many of the things that we’re seeing.

The flip side of that is that people are extremely open to change. With change comes invention, and innovation, and new products, and VR, and all these different things that people are willing to and demanding those things, and are very, very forgiving around it.

We have a bunch of people who live in this world who are unforgiving in general – with brands or with any form of lack of authenticity – but extremely forgiving with brands that they know are having a crack at making the world a better place, or having a crack at inventing a new future and so forth.

That creates wonderful opportunities, both for advertising business operating in that space or for anyone who’s willing to demonstrate that they’ve taken a step forward. Brands that have taken a step forward for the greater good – whether that’s a moral or ethical greater good, or whether it’s as simple as doing something better for a consumer.

 

M: What new approaches are needed for marketers and brands hoping to address the challenge? 

JD: What I’ve observed in marketing departments is that they’re shrinking. Businesses are increasingly restructuring their organisations and streamlining them. That can be a good thing. What we’re not seeing, however, is agencies doing that. Clients rely on agencies as one tool in their tool belt to help them deliver on their marketing objectives and their marketing plan.

If your agency’s not doing that, if we’re not aligning with the way that your organisations are working, find another agency, find another agency group, find another process. It’s fundamentally important, because, as I say… logistically, you have organisations structurally at odds with how consumers are these days in the advertising industry, and that needs to change.

There’s a lot of focus on the word ‘transparency’ in the media. Every time I pick up the paper or the trade press, it’s about ‘is your agency transparent?’ That conversation didn’t exist two years ago, and now it’s front page every day.

The tragedy of transparency is that it masks a much greater issue of what the structures and service offerings of agencies need to be to meet the new needs of marketers and advertisers. That’s where the conversation should be.

The transparency conversation, which is incredibly important, and I’ve been vocal about it myself, that’s a compliance conversation, that should be fixed in the back room. We should be talking about what our businesses need to look like and how we need to work together.

 

M: When you say the framework needs working on, is that the main part of what you just mentioned, or is there other things that need to come into play here?

JD: That opinion: it works for us and our clients. But, that framework of how agencies work together really need to be – in our view – the understanding of how creative media and technology work together. In our case, we bring those things together.

The reason it’s so important to do that is that… the great pretender in the world of advertising has been data for many years now. Many a millionaire has been made over data and data businesses, but really, in many cases, we’ve actually just brought a much more complicated layer to our clients and to advertisers’ businesses. We haven’t made it as readily simple and usable as it should be.

When I come back to your question about what marketers should be doing and looking for in their partners, is looking for one that brings those things together uniquely, that suits their business, in a way that they can get information out of that process and not data. Not a whole lot of stuff that they’re not going to be able to make everyday marketing decisions and long-term planning decisions based on. That’s where I think the future of advertising is at the moment, or should be.

Your massive great conglomerates and networks of many different specialists. Specialists don’t work. Specialists work when they’re managed under a central agency, so if you’ve got a big agency group, you’ve got your elite client, and they’re closely managing them and presenting information that is unilaterally agreed by everyone.

That’s a great thing, but clients having a million different agencies, some whose sole purpose is to present them with information on information and some whose sole purpose is to present information on something else, you’ll only ever get those agencies trying to constantly prove that they can deliver value by billing even more and sharing even less.

We need to acknowledge that it takes an awful lot for agencies to work together in a collegial way well. Clients need to take a lot of responsibility for that, and make sure they get a result that is readily easy for you to use and see and feel.

 

M: This shake up, this climate of revolution, do you think it will even out and work its way out as things start to fall into place, or do you think these disruptions and people speaking out will continue?

JD: Disruption in the way that you’re describing it means something that is changing the norm and shaking things up. In my head, it means the norm. It is the norm now. There’ll be a new word, maybe it’ll be ‘hyper-disruption’, or ‘total carnage’, or something like that. That might be the new word, but disruption is here to stay.

Uber, for example, is a disruptive business, but now it’s the norm. It will be disrupted in the near future. For us to sustain business growth and move through disruption, and come out of it a better business, then we need to be the disruptors. We need to disrupt ourselves and constantly challenge that.

We invest 25% of our profit into research and development. In many businesses that may not seem that abnormal. But in the advertising industry, spending money on something that’s non-billable without a clear immediate return is unheard of.

I understand why that is the case, based in the old world, but you have to speculate and you have to innovate and you have to invent to try and work out what those disruptive opportunities are.

Disruptive is normal. Disruptive is plain and simple.

 


Jason Dooris book Cover

Jason Dooris’ book The Lunchbox 2017: the revolution edition explores the changes and challenges facing marketing and advertising.