I recently attended the Worldwide Partners Inc. (WPI) annual North America conference in Chicago. WPI is a network of independent agencies that have come together to leverage the thinking and resources of 70+ top independent agencies from across the globe. Besides R&R Partners, the network includes fine agencies like BSSP, Mering Carsen, Shipyard, Juice Pharma, Bailey Laurerman, just to name a few. In fact, collectively, WPI ranks No. 10 in terms of billings when compared to other large holding companies.

The conference really shed light on why being independent is really special and unique.

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Our clients’ success is paramount – we are all-in for our clients. Creativity is at our core – typically with smaller budgets, we have to find efficient, yet effective and breakthrough solutions for our clients. We are also nimble and quick – structure and process exists, but isn’t a barrier to moving quickly in a fast-paced environment. We invest for our clients – we aren’t beholden to any holding company, so we do what’s right for our clients, not what’s in the best interest of our bottom line. And when needed, WPI agencies come together to scale up to meet the clients’ needs, whether it be geographical, resources or specialty areas.

Independence is at the core of R&R Partners. Our unique experiences and culture, coupled with our candor and empathy, deliver results for our clients. Clients that have been around 20+ years in most cases.

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The WPI conference theme was Catalyst, and the diverse programming and content really stimulated some great thinking and new ideas. What follows are 12 things I learned this week:

  1. Programmatic buying is a great way for publishers and clients to take advantage of real-time bidding and traffic spikes due to timely and topical events. But the key to programmatic buying is being transparent to clients, both delivery and cost.
  2. Tongal, a creative, on-demand production studio, not only does great cost-efficient work, but a partner like Tongal could also serve as an alternative to freelancers or help supplement your social content program.
  3. “Your vision is your creativity … but change requires gut and grit … you are the catalyst …” – Jen Spencer, the Humanity of Creativity.
  4. Michael Farmer, author of Madison Avenue Manslaughter, shared with us that consultants have greater value than agencies, thanks most in part to holding company agencies who have squeezed margins so low. Consultants are keen on a desire for client results and shareholder value; meanwhile, holding company agencies are about their own bottom line. He believes big agency brands are becoming more and more irrelevant, and this is good for independent agencies who are similar to the consultant philosophy above.
  5. Doug Wood of Reed Smith law firm has a site called legalbytes.com with interesting information on issues facing marketers today – bot fraud, patent trolls, native advertising, programmatic, etc. – all too technical for me to further expand upon.
  6. Vertical networks, particularly in the B2B, but also in some B2C categories, make a lot of sense for clients and marketers. Spiceworks is the top network in IT; Doximity for doctors; Edmodo for educators; Showcase for marketing; just to name a few.
  7. Forbes has put forward the road map for managing, systematizing and optimizing the marketing content supply chain: Own -> Reorganize -> Systemize -> Operationalize.
  8. Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, the incubator space in the Merchandise Mart, knows his stuff! He believes search is out, and answers are in … and data and accessibility is driving this phenomenon. He also says context is more important than what you’re saying; ritual and regular is more important than frequency; reach, resonance, reaction. Raise is a really cool gift card app where you can buy unused gift cards at really low prices and retailers aren’t balking as they would rather get some revenue versus rebating the unused gift cards based on recent regulations.
  9. Mintel talked about the iGeneration, 5−14-year-olds, since we’re all tired of talking about Millennials. Interesting statistics that prove our country truly is a minority-majority: 5−14-yea-olds are 40 percent diverse today, 25 percent Hispanic, 10 percent African-American and 5 percent Asian. We, as marketers, need to wake up to this; or should have woken up to this a while ago.
  10. rFactor showed us some interesting social trends and success stories: social connect to CRM, segment based on sales criteria, and align key sales and marketing stakeholders.
  11. One large consultancy company measures success in terms of its clients’ financial results. An interesting approach that should be considered for clients who are open to innovative compensation structures.
  12. I terribly missed my kids, Hudson and Sawyer. It was a powerfully packed two-day agenda, which I don’t regret being a part of at the very least, but I was glad to do the redeye in and out in order to limit my time away from my kids.

#WPINAR15