Clarity in what a brand says and does is a key factor to growth

Catherine Emprin of BETC Paris shares key insights for navigating today's marketing economy

da India Fizer , AdForum

BETC Paris
Advertising/Full Service/Integrata
Pantin, Francia
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Catherine EMPRIN
Directrice Générale BETC Paris, Pantin

In the latest installment of our series focused on new business and growth, Catherine Emprin, General Manager and Head of New Business at BETC Paris, proves having a purpose and vision, a knack for taking risks on big ideas, and relationship-building are key factors to exponential growth.


When searching for growth opportunities, how do you determine what is the right fit for the agency?

There is kind of a complexity behind this question. We know that our chances to win are much higher when people love us already a little bit: the people, the way we work, our creativity, what we put out in the world… So when the conversation starts, we try to assess if this appetite for us is already here.

When we talk directly to the marketing or communications team, we ask ourselves: will we share a lot with these people? Will they be happy with the way we work? Will we be able to meet their expectations, to deliver our best for them? Will there be an affinity between us? In fact we pay a lot of attention to the human side of a pitch, much more than what one would assume when thinking of “new business”. We try to evaluate if the company culture will match ours.

Of course, the business aspect is top of mind as well: the potential revenue, the aura and power of the brand, the knowledge we have on their category, their communications track record, their reputation as a client… It is always interesting to look at the reel of a potential client, not only at the brand level but even at the individual level (for leadership). What have they done in their career? Have they ever shown interest in really good big ideas?


What does exponential growth look like for your agency? For example, project work vs AOR pitches, geographic, interdisciplinary, etc.

Growth for the agency has been solid, progressive and always exceeded the market during the last twenty years excluding the COVID years. 2021 has been a year of growth revival for us. Pitches are now 70% project based and this is the major shift of the last five years. But the biggest accounts remain AOR pitches and our revenue is 70% made of retainers. It shows how we manage to create loyalty. Retention is crucial today if you don’t want to renew your client portfolio at a hectic pace. 50% of our revenue is made by clients who have stayed with us for more than 10 years. In terms of geographies, most of our work is global. In terms of disciplines, most of it is integrated. What has been striking is the level of fragmentation certain clients have achieved.


What are the key challenges and / or opportunities for brands in today’s marketing economy?

It is wide open. The possibilities in communications have expanded so much thanks to tech, everything is possible. The risk is clearly comms becoming scattered. I see some opportunities for brands who focus on one strategy, one edge and who stay the course. Some of our clients have built a 15yrs uninterrupted growth on one big idea. Having a vision, a point of view, and hold onto it firmly will certainly be more and more important for a brand. Platforms and social media put pressure on day-to-day messaging and yes, conversation between brands and people is permanent, but it also generates fatigue. Clarity in what the brand does and says, and bigger impact at a more sustainable frequency across channels will certainly be key factors of success. In Europe we also see most of our clients committing to sustainability strategies. When these strategies  are aligned with their core activity, it really makes companies move forward.


Given the uncertainty of the past couple of years, are there any trend predictions you have about where the ad and media industries are headed?

I think in-housing at clients will soon have limits. Managing creative work is a trade. It’s a culture. If it’s not yours, you don’t know how to do it. Some clients will find good reasons to in-house social media activities– in luxury, in fashion… where it is all about influence - but others will prefer to keep this external, depending on what they focus on. Procurement has also pushed towards the commoditization of a whole range of services. But at the end of the day, ideas cannot be commoditized. Ideas have value. This is the name of the game for ad agencies and talents are part of it. Hiring them, retaining them, sourcing them short term or long term is a tough, competitive and crucial task.

Ad-and-media industries have also encountered some difficulty to keep their activities at the same level of profitability. In agencies, the explanation is relatively simple. The average value generated by a client operation has decreased while the number of assets and the volume of work have considerably increased. For a single average campaign, the number of requested assets used to be around 30 and it is now around 130.

As a result, on the French market for instance, agencies are poorer than 15 years ago, less able to invest on their future and on talent. I think that there is a big topic of discussion – an elephant in the room in fact - with clients about honest collaboration, respectful relationships and fair compensation. The survival of a healthy and bold advertising industry is at stake. Let us not forget that mass media heavily depend on it, and beyond media, freedom of speech, democracy and so on. 

The carbon footprint of our campaigns will also be a topic: clients and agencies are expected by their internal and external audiences on measurement and reduction. Opensource tools providing a common measurement referential would be more than welcome.