in Speech, Thoughts

What does the future agency look like? Part 2

In part one of this article I looked at how the client environment is changing in the age of technology and parity. In part two, I discuss how agencies will change as a consequence.

Content generators
Breaking through the clutter remains a challenge, to cut through, agencies will become content generators. In a way that‘s what they do now, except today’s content manifests in distinct marketing channels – mostly advertising, promotions, brand experiences and digital. Soon however the lines between these channels will blur and agencies will create brand content in many other forms and combinations. Accelerated by media fragmentation and technology, content will vary from movies to movements, from creating bands like the Jonas brothers to choirs like Glee, from social media apps to online games played by thousands of people across the world. Traditionally content has been the domain of media companies, which then engage brands through sponsorship. Branded content will become the Holy Grail, and agencies will own that space. This will cause a shift in how agency teams are recruited and designed – teams that are able to tell a brand story through engaging, interactive (aided by social media and mobile) content will be highly sought after.

Strategy and thought leadership
Agencies will invest more in strategic capacity. A solid strategy with clearly articulated campaign objectives becomes even more critical in a world where brand owners and agencies have a plethora of communications options available to them. This trend mirrors the increase in marketing investment and therefore rigour and scrutiny in the client environment.

Agencies will have to stay at the forefront of the changing communication landscape if they are to service their client effectively. They will become thought leaders and provide the crystal ball perspective to clients. Clients will lean heavily on agencies to interpret the complex and ever changing world. Agencies will allocate more resources to internal thought leadership programmes – this may be more company wide training, an increase in the sharing of global intellectual property within the network, regulated research time and more.

Investment in delivery platforms
The land grab for anything digital won’t stop, however agencies will also buy and partner with new delivery platforms such as mobile, film, gaming and experiential in an effort to own as much of the marketing mix channels as possible. This is driven by the need to keep apace with technological innovation, margin and revenue extraction.

Project management
There will be more investment in senior strategic project management, currently account management or ‘suits’. This role will evolve into a more strategic force. The day of paper pushers will be over. Being the front line, they need to be strategically sussed, they need to understand the client’s complex world and interpret it to their agencies and vice versa. They will go from being the note takers to the umbilical cord between client and agency – the way it should always have been.

The large will get larger
Finally, clients are going to invest disproportionally more with larger agencies. For a number of reasons – in uncertain times, the money goes where experience lies – ask the Mckinsey’s and Accenture’s in consulting, or the Goldman Sachs’ and the JP Morgan Chase’s in investment banking. Large agencies will have the depth of global experience that will give clients the comfort that their agency partners can safely navigate them through uncertainty. Large agency groups will also have the resources to procure the best–of-breed talent, new business platforms (as discussed above). In a nutshell they will have the experience and service offerings that will make them even more competitive than they are today.

Some things never change?
David Ogilvy once said: “We sell or else.” The fact that marketing is such a critical function means more scrutiny on investment and return. Agencies that don’t help their clients sell will see the door faster than ever before.

In closing
I’ve written many times before about how the flux the world is in has made us naïve. When people are naïve they appreciate the opportunities that exist beyond their own experience and knowledge.

This can only mean good things for the industry. Lets embrace our naïvety and boldly go forth where no one has gone before.

Follow me on twitter @ abeyphonogenic

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5 comments
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Chopnfat
Chopnfat

Your article makes some interesting points but the future you describe seems like a utopia. Agencies, especially in South Africa, seem to be stuck in their "timeless" methods and relatively contempt about mediocrity. The pace of technological innovation and societal change will continue increasing. Will agencies ever catch up? Doubtful...

You mention content creation and branded entertainment and the fact that agencies will jump on that opportunity. In my experience, agencies are ill equipped to handle ongoing formats. Rather, would it not be an opportunity for existing content creators to broaden their market to brands in addition to broadcasters?