World of Agencies – back together in a full circle?

Many companies today need to shift the way they think, their approach, to remain relevant in the lives of their consumers – this is the true realization we all need to embrace.

It connected people but eventually lost touch with them….. so what next Blackberry, RIM=RIP?

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This is a similar challenge faced by agencies – advances in technology and changes in consumer behaviours create new opportunities for more interactive marketing models. Agencies are operating in a rapid environment and continuously need to change, requiring them to respond faster with more flexible and adaptive approaches.

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The need for speed of response requires a shift from delivering services towards staging experiences to guiding (visible) transformations for clients. How agencies deal with this complexity, through technology, people and process, plays an increasing role in creating a new type of value-add for clients.

Now, rigid agency silos are forced to re-invent themselves to have more fluid structures – towards a collaborative, even entrepreneurial culture.

So I ask myself these questions:

  1. Do agencies have the ability to adapt to change?
  2. Are clients organisations better off building internal capabilities themselves – such as bringing in specialised digital marketing services, strategy, even media planners?

Technology has democratised previously specialised services, offered by agencies traditionally, such as media buying and digital expertise. But this is all slowly being replaced by self-service ad platforms, automated trading, optimising tools, etc.

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Can agencies counter-act this commoditisation of services, to remain relevant?

Traditional lines between agency sectors are also blurring, creating competition with in-house client capabilities. As many clients develop an improved capability in digital, data and the direct communication with consumers, the division between agency and client competencies are becoming less clear.

What I have seen lately –  I kid you, not.

Agencies answering back by introducing even more specialist expertise – mobile CRM managers, “creative technologists”, content producers, “ambassadors of buzz”, chief listening officer, etc.

Seriously, is this a good thing?

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It seems that the advertising industry have been so caught up with technology and service specialists, they have forgotten the need for good “generalists“. You know, ones that have the know-how, the understanding to pull together cross function resources to implement the best creative solutions for their clients. Those ones… (I fall into this category by choice, unfortunately)

Through my experience, by breaking down department boundaries and functions to become more fluid, this is when the most interesting stuff happens!

In reality, many agency models are still very old-fashioned – with lots of their own internal bureaucracy and inefficiencies. As clients improve their own marketing capabilities, agencies should seize the opportunity technology provides to move further up the decision-making chain. This can only be done when there is more evidence-based decision making at a higher level to help clients make changes beyond advertising and media within a rapidly changing communications environment. This should be the agency’s value-add, as agencies shift towards a model based around consultancy services.

Agencies should own this rich territory by helping clients understand and identify opportunities with new trends. By doing so, approaching a client’s business is no longer a short-term interest but a longer-term view that will change the way of working, and help with innovation, creative thinking and ideas.

People buy project management and process as much as they buy technology – Deputy Head of Strategy MEC

For example, a media agency’s model of “unparalleled negotiation and buying power” is dying (soon to be dead) – even how many consolidations may happen to create bigger, more powerful conglomerates. Instead, why not focus remuneration on “brain power” instead?

When the advertising industry announced the possible Omnicom-Publicis merger, looming in the background was to be the biggest shake-up the advertising world would see. It is not about aggregating a highly commoditised media spend, but the evolution of one of the biggest consultancy offerings through the merger of professional-tech-IT services, forming a new hybrid agency. But in the end, the deal fell through and we’re back to where we are, today.

So in the end, are we merely seeing the return of the full-service agency – a model the advertising industry once was.

Have we just come full circle?

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