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by Bob Hutchins, Brad Ayres & Ken Ott
Agency Exposed Podcast

The Platforms vs The People... How vulnerable are you?



Never has there been more awareness of the power that platforms hold within our society - including our business society. Think about all of the platforms you and your clients critically rely on to do business. It can be downright scary, especially if you haven’t considered the path you would take if one of those critical platforms shut you down. But there is a way to win. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that it’s time to expect the unexpected. Today we talk about breaking your addiction to immediate ROAS, educating your clients on the importance of not relying on a single platform, and developing the skills that will allow you to act when new opportunities present themselves.

Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode:

  1. Diversify—and if you’re not in a position to do so, at least be aware of where your vulnerabilities are as a business. We talk a lot on Agency Exposed about the power of pivoting and diversification, but immediate change isn’t possible for every business. Consider other ways you can protect your business from its weaknesses.
    1. Truly embracing diversification involves breaking your addiction to immediate ROAS. Change takes time and risk—calculated risk, yes, but risk nonetheless.
  2. Educate your Clients about the reliance on platforms and be honest about how potential disruptions may impact their bottom line. As your client, they are relying on you to be informed of platform changes and provide guidance on what is best for them and their customers.
  • Be Ready to Act—Opportunity is created in winter. Right now, we’re in a “winter”. Being ready for the right opportunity is a big part of business. Remember that taking advantage of opportunities and presenting a solution at the right time doesn’t mean that you’re capitalizing on the misfortunes of others.

For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:

About The Guys:

Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran from from 2000-2017. He is also the author of 3 books. More on Bob:

Brad Ayres: Founder of Anthem Republic, an award-winning ad agency. Brad’s knowledge has led some of the biggest brands in the world. Originally from Detroit, Brad is an OG in the ad agency world and has the wisdom and scars to prove it. Currently that knowledge is being applied to his boutique agency. More on Brad:

Ken Ott: Co-Founder and Chief Growth Rebel of Metacake, an Ecommerce Growth Team for some of the world’s most influential brands with a mission to Grow Brands That Matter. Ken is also an author, speaker, and was nominated for an Emmy for his acting on the Metacake Youtube Channel (not really). More on Ken:

Show Notes:

[0:33] Bob opens the show, another Zoom call for The Guys today. Brad is in California moving his daughter into college!

[2:00] Bob talks about the big announcements this week that were made- between GameStop news and Amazon announcing leadership changes, there is a lot going on!

[2:51] Bob asks Brad about his thoughts regarding these changes.

[3:11] Brad talks about how investment strategies have changed with the coming-of-age of Millennials. A group of investors from Reddit decided to raise stock on hedge fund managers who have been shorting their bets for years. The idea is they are taking back control of the market from those who have played games for so long. Ultimately, the guys from Reddit flipped Wall Street on it’s head.

[5:23] Ken talks about how this is a kind of rebalancing of power, and that’s a good thing! In recent years, the powers-that-be have been out of balance, but the events of this week have proven that the people can have an impact on rebalancing that power.

[7:41] Brad talks about Facebook changes and drives home what we’ve been talking about on Agency Exposed for a few weeks- diversification. We don’t own Facebook, or any of the content that it produces. Facebook disappearing or losing power (seemingly) is very possible, so diversification is KEY.

[9:12] Bob speaks on the changes that he’s seen over the years, and says that typically that change is for the best and winds up being great. But there are definitely negative impacts on individuals during these times of disruption.

[10:30] Bob talks about Robinhood, the platform that helped with trading micro-stocks and has caused some chaos in the market over the last week or so. They have shut down now, and it begs a question- how are these things impacting the individuals behind the companies? And who are these people who have decided to use a platform to trade SO MUCH of their money?

[13:40] Ken reflects on the shift in mentality in the marketing industry over the last few years, saying that cycles show themselves eventually but there is always that up and down disruption with the technology. There is so much that’s out of your control, so a lot of what has to happen is finding peace with the chaos and the things that you can’t control.

[16:36] Ken shares a big tip for this chaotic atmosphere- diversification. Be aware of where you need to diversify so that if/when the unexpected happens you have many directions to pivot and shift. Be aware of your vulnerability.

[19:00] Ken continues, saying that platforms like Facebook have gotten to the point that they feel beyond touch, impossible to topple. The “too big to fail” scenario applies here- and the disruption feels like a good thing to him.

  • 21:22 If Facebook struggles a bit and FEELS it, they tend to have to turn and refocus on serving their customers well.

[22:04] Bob talks about the growing pains of the internet and the way that we are changing and shifting to better serve ourselves. Because everyone has access to the same knowledge via the internet, we the people have access to changing businesses and the business landscape in a much more effective way.

[24:24] Bob shares that new technology is driving out old corporations. With more access to information than ever, the people have the power to change the infrastructure of corporations.

[26:21] Ken talks about his consumer/marketer brains and how they react to the changes going on right now. His consumer mind has long been uncomfortable with how brands are listening to their consumers and how that will impact his children over time. There does need to be competitive reform of these platforms.

  • From an advertising perspective, he believes that this disruption will mean that the advertising world is better. There have already been cycles of this happening, and now we’re coming back around to another shift.

[30:13] Ken reflects on how big data has made marketing more strategic, and rewards people who can understand the algorithm and hone those skills. He talks about the privacy issues that concern MANY of us with this information.

[32:28] Bob reflects on privacy issues and the philosophy behind brands that he trusts, like Apple. His trust in Apple’s security expertise drives his brand loyalty, and the same is true for other brands as well. What we’re seeing with big shifts in big data and information security is a clash of philosophies in technology. Apple is owning and tightening up security on their platform, focusing on privacy for their customers vs Facebook and Google who want to democratize their platforms.

[34:20] Ken says that Apple is one of the only companies that doesn’t monetize data from their users, while companies like FB and Google make millions of dollars from their users, so really it is a clash of businesses as well as philosophies.

[37:13] Brad predicts that block-chain technology will be integrated into platforms next, and that will change the industry. He talks about a new cash app called Humble that will have a currency and run on blockchain, AND it will be international. This is truly groundbreaking in regards to people being in power.

[39:37] Brad asks Bob and Ken about how they communicate with their clients when there are changes to a platform that are out of their control.

[39:52] Bob says that a lot of clients don’t even know about those changes. He puts a lot of effort into educating them about how Facebook works (for example) and little details about what to update when a new iOS comes out.

  • There are also platforms that work well, and he works to show his clients how they can be used.

[41:32] Ken says that this will affect agencies of all types- not just marketing or advertising agencies. Other parts of the website are going to be adjusted and changed to accommodate for new rules, such as branding and site design.

[42:06] Ken talks about how ROAS on Facebook ads has been declining for a few years now, so there has been fair warning and reason to diversify.

  • Diversifying platforms means breaking our addiction to immediate ROAS—this has been the most difficult thing for people to grasp and move forward with.

[45:05] Ken talks about the emphasis that is put on owned data, and says that there is strength in developing a deeper knowledge of the way that you connect the dots between data points across channels.

[47:00] Bob talks about other social platforms that have come about since quarantine became a thing. He mentions that Parler came and went, as well as Clubhouse, which is akin to a sophisticated Discord. He predicts more segmentation of social platforms as the technology catches up with the everyday person.

[48:17] Ken talks about how a few years ago he never thought that anything would come along to truly challenge Facebook, and says that a big part of business is waiting as well as being ready. Often taking advantage of opportunities in a positive way is about waiting and being ready as well—when the opportunity arises, you’re able to present a solution.


Episode 59

Season 1

by Bob Hutchins, Brad Ayres & Ken Ott