There’s no question Gen AI will completely transform marketing

Consultant Rachel Huff discusses her key takeaways following meetings with agency leaders at this season's AdForum Summit in NYC

by Carol Mason , AdForum (NYC)

 

 

Victoire & Co
Winchester, United States
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Rachel Huff, President and Founder of Victoire & Co, sits at the intersection of the best companies and agencies. As an agency search consultant, her passion lies in building brand-agency partnerships that drive long-term success. She has a knack for getting to the heart of a brand’s communications, marketing, and business needs and guiding them toward their best agency fit. Rachel also shares her business development and relationship-building insights with agencies through workshops and as a facilitator with the 4A’s.

Following the AdForum Summit, we caught up with Rachel to talk further about agency search, AI and her best advice for new business pitching.

As a search consultant, what are the metrics you use to guide a potential client / agency match? 

One of the biggest misconceptions about my work as a search consultant is that I have this Rolodex of agencies, and when a client reaches out to me, I just go into it and pull out a handful of options that fit their needs. The reality is I spend most of my time with a new client early on in the discovery phase, really getting to know their business goals and marketing priorities. We talk about the obvious things like the scope of work, budget considerations, and procurement requirements, but we also talk about their team culture, values, and internal dynamics. It’s not just about finding them an agency that checks all the boxes; it’s about finding them a long-term partner. 

At this season’s AdForum Summit in NYC, what were the key industry topics that grabbed your attention? How will they inform your advice to clients?

Clearly the most buzzworthy topic of the AdForum Summit was AI and the future of marketing, and agencies’ role in this transformation. We heard about how brands and their agency partners are using Gen AI to create content faster, better, cheaper, and more than ever before. We also heard about the importance of the human touch in telling stories that actually resonate with audiences. There’s no question Gen AI will completely transform marketing, and I look forward to seeing how the conversation evolves from now until the next Summit. My advice to clients is – whether they have zero experience or are much farther along on their journey – we all have a LOT to learn. Those who hide their heads in the sand will get left behind.

Another topic of my side conversations with fellow consultants was diversity in the advertising industry. While it’s easy to point fingers at agencies for a lack of diversity, especially at the leadership level, it’s an entire ecosystem, and we all have a role to play in ensuring diversity of talent, voices, ideas, and more. If search consultants are a gateway for brands to their agency partners, then how do we ensure we are opening doors to more diverse-led and owned agencies? It’s something I think a lot about with my business, and have a lot more work to do.

What inspires you most in today’s marketing landscape?

I’m excited about the influx of new agencies popping up and giving the legacy players a run for their money. While some of these newcomers will not last, those that do have the potential to redefine the industry. To be clear, I have a lot of respect for big agencies – that’s where I spent much of my career – but there's been noticeable complacency in recent years. I love a good underdog story and the healthy competition it brings.

And last, your top tips for agencies involved in a competitive pitch!

SAY NO TO GROW: To grow your business, you have to be really strategic and precise about which new business opportunities you pursue. That means saying no more often. You should only pitch when the probability of winning is high. Focus on developing high-value, long-lasting client relationships that are the right fit for your agency. 

DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF: There’s the famous Oscar Wilde quote: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” What can you do better than anyone else in your sleep? What tangible business problems do you solve for clients? What’s it like to work with you? These are the questions you should be answering. That said, focus less on yourself—the client wants to hear what you can do for them.

ASK SMART QUESTIONS: Show them you speak the language of their business. Do your research and ask questions about your findings. Show how much you already know about the client through smart questions that generate dialogue and even some healthy debate.

PUT THE TEAM FRONT AND CENTER: Take the time to get the team right, and put those folks front and center. That means being prepared to answer: “Is the pitch team we've gotten to know throughout this process really the team we’re going to work with?” It’s OK if you don’t have it all figured out yet, but be honest and transparent—two of the most important qualities in any client-agency relationship.

SIMULATE WHAT IT’S LIKE TO WORK TOGETHER: Don’t treat it like a pitch; treat it like they’re already your client. Take leadership of your limited time together. Tell them what you think about their brand and how to achieve their business goals. Embrace every opportunity to build rapport. Find ways to get the client excited about the prospect of working together, and you’ll make their choice an easy one.