Agency of the Future: The Anti-Agency


James Orsini-VaynermediaBy James Orsini, Chief Integration Officer, Vayner Media  

I have seen the future and it looks a lot like Vayner Media. After spending the last twenty five years in a cadre of marketing companies like Public Relations and Promotions, Branding, General Market Advertising and Mobile Media I have seen many operational similarities. Various holding companies and publicly traded company models have demonstrated to me that these marketing agencies really all run the same way. Sure we all have different professionals servicing differing clients and yes we like to believe we all have a special secret sauce that differentiates one agency from the next but at the core we all truly operate the same way. Management knows it, our staff knows it, our clients know it, our shareholders and unfortunately procurement knows it.

We’ve all been speaking about true disruptors in their space. Uber disrupting the taxi industry as we’ve know it, AirBnB disrupting the hotel bookings and Zillow disrupting the Real Estate market. All industries that have been around for decades in their current forms. What if Uber who disrupted the livery service industry really was a time management system? We are only now seeing its applications to food delivery and logistics in certain markets. Watch out Fedex more unintentional disruption coming your way…

But, can there be a disruptor in the agency space? So what makes THIS place so different? It’s an agency that doesn’t know it’s an agency. It never intended to be an agency. Deep down at its core, it believes it is a Silicon Valley tech start- up company.  Our founders Gary and AJ Vaynerchuk are entrepreneurs who inadvertently birth one of today’s most successful social media advertising agencies. So why is it so successful? Because it doesn’t know how nor does it wish to operate like a traditional agency. It is a disruptor by nature.

It simply won’t accept a spirit of entitlement. It lives in an environment of meritocracy.  It answers to no shareholder or holding company but rather to its super charged CEO who never blames but accepts every fault personally. It cannot comprehend a voluntary turnover rate that isn’t single digits. It ALWAYS puts people before profits. Get the culture right and everything else follows:  Cambridge English Dictionary defines culture as “the way of life especially the general customs and beliefs of a particular group of people at a particular time”

Most agencies I have been a part of prior to Vayner Media had a “spirit” but not a “culture”. The difference for me has been “Spirit” is often times emotionally charged and emotions run hot and cold and are individually based (short term). A “culture of care” if you will, is a belief system of a group that runs deeper than a spirit and is not moved by a particular event. A Culture of care is in for the long game. Decisions here are made on a 3 dimensional chess board. No one here is purposing for next quarter’s earnings they are playing for the next year, 3 years, 5 years. Every decision we make is in the best interest of our employees, our company and as a result our clients. Employees AND clients who don’t see or appreciate the decisions we make are gently exited. Helped on the way out, but shown the door. Can’t have a culture without a belief system. Those that don’t believe… don’t belong. Dare I say this includes clients as well; refreshing I know…

There is no resting in knowledge or laurels here. Like a Silicon Valley Start- up, there is an unquenchable thirst for continued self-explored knowledge and a machine for sharing knowledge in real time. This is an agency environment where speed trumps perfection. Art creation is left for the artist and this environment is about sales and growth and expansion and new horizons. There is something invigorating about an agency that sees itself not as it is but rather as it wants to be or can become. It’s a forward looking reveal rather than a past looking perspective. Like its millennial fuel, it prides itself on disruption. Questioning the status quo and pushing the boundaries of exploration.

In retrospect the Industry that I have come to love should have better embraced Silicon Valley and the birth of Social Media rather than mocked or feared it. It should have been a part of shaping its commercial value rather than sit on the side lines and observed its evolution and then grope to fit in. Like yellow cars empty hotel rooms and unemployed realtors; I am sorry to say now, what is special about this disruptor cannot be replicated in a retooled agency of the past. While classics can be restored, they can never become a Tesla (yep, another disruptor). I have gained more marketing perspective here in the last 15 months than my prior 15 years in the industry. Buckle up because this agency train is moving fast and you are either on it or in its way.  Hats off to the agency of the future; for the future is bright!

About the Author: James Orsini is Chief Integration Officer for Vayner Media a social first digital agency. Working alongside founders AJ and Gary Vaynerchuk James helps manage the agency for success. Mr. Orsini was Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors of Single Touch Systems Inc. (SITO:OTCBB), the mobile media solutions provider serving retailers, advertisers and brands. A proven leader and author of business articles (Monetize or be Cannibalized and The Race for Mobile Relevance) and white papers (The Authentic Network, Reverse 360 Mentoring and Mastering Procurement). James has over 25-years of finance and operations experience across a broad range of marketing and communications disciplines in both the Ominicom and Publicis Groupe holding companies. He currently serves on the Board of Regents for Seton Hall University. 

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