10 strategies for evolution

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The days are long, there's a whiff of barbecue in the air, A/C units have returned to their windows, the Mets are almost out of contention… and MM&M has been very, very busy. It must be July.

The Agency Issue might be a major test of endurance for us. But the reward is the opportunity to engage with more than 130 leaders and to take the temperature of the industry through their insights and observations. Across the board, agencies are reinventing themselves, retooling their offerings, and looking to innovate. I thought some of the common themes would make a fun checklist for achieving success.

1. Be digital everywhere…

It's a near-mandatory requirement these days for all agency employees, to become digitally conversant. But guess what? Clients have gotten up to speed, too, so you'll also need a crack team of digerati with advanced skills to impress them, and to handle the really tricky projects.

2. …but don't call yourself digital anywhere

Digital should be a given, not a specialty. Content is king, and there are signs that the pharma pendulum might be swinging away from digital shops, back towards agencies that truly get the science, products and customers – but only if they can deliver digital, too.

3. Diversify your client base

A healthy spread of business is always good, but there is a particular urgency for pharma-fed agencies to diversify. Firstly, dwindling pipelines, stalling approvals, toughening regulations, and the imminent deaths of numerous patently challenged blockbusters, will mean less traditional pill-based business. Secondly, pharma's frugal penchant for consolidating agencies is likely to continue. Better find some new stuff to work on.

4. Recruit non-healthcare talent

Agencies have been doing this for some time, due in part to a shortage of good healthcare people, but also to bring in fresh approaches and skills from outside the industry. With many other sectors still reeling, the talent pool is brimming.

5. Fund innovation adequately

Clients are demanding innovation, so how are you going to provide it? You cannot expect over-stretched teams to miraculously come up with the kind of tools, products and digital offerings that will give you an edge. So build a dedicated lab and fill it with a dedicated team.

6. Extend your global footprint

Global networks are not for everyone, but a significant number of business opportunities demand international capabilities and agencies with a global presence stand to benefit.

7. Know your regulatory landscape

Compliance training is expensive and time-consuming but it's vital that your teams have a sound knowledge of the regulatory framework in which they are working. Don't allow avoidable issues to reach med legal.

8. Slice and dice your wares

Create specialty offerings to maximize market opportunities. A good example is GSW Worldwide's health and wellness brand, TheWell@GSW, which combines women's health unit Pink Tank and Stonefly Communications.

9. Advance your analytics

The only thing clients demand more than the innovation they crave is a damn good argument as to why your idea will work and precisely what it's going to do for their brand. Bring your A-game.

10. Get into health and wellness

Healthcare reform presents a big incentive to pursue wellness. Opportunities should arise from the need to service 40 million new customers in the system and through wellness programs designed to drive down healthcare costs.

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