Where Do We Go From Here – Ad Agency and Client

I have been thinking a lot around the changing Agency Model and how creative execution is moving more in house. This is naturally resulting in retainer dollars (the gold standard goal of a thriving Agency) drying up broadly.

One of the big drivers of companies pulling creative In-House is, what I refer to in my head as, the “Blue Collarization” or “Democratization” of technology tools. This nothing new to any of you fine readers, but access to intelligent tools are increasingly making execution more and more accessible at a lower cost. Less classically trained craftspeople can be leveraged to achieve a reasonable-ish end product. Additionally, the preponderance of Social (YouTube, Facebook Video, Instagram, etc) and associated content tools has helped bring down the overall expectation of technical quality that used to be a benchmark of a great Agency.

The Pros are that it has created a content hungry wonderland out there, especially online. The Cons (for an Ad Agency at least) are that the costs have dropped enough that Client companies feel safe in owning those deliverables themselves, rather than handing it off to outside vendor partners.

How can Agencies and Clients strategically lean into that to their mutual benefits? What can the Agency offer that the Client cannot do all on their own?

When it comes to Advertising and Marketing, most Client Companies only see as far as their nearest competitor. They rarely see strategically beyond what Competitor X is rumored to be doing, or the next quarters tactics or the loudest Business Units immediate needs. Maintaining brand consistency and message quality is a constant chore. Rogue Marketing Managers, constantly under pressure and misunderstood timelines, go off script, without having a resource to plot out the whys and hows.

As such, Agencies need to continue to focus on top brand level deliverables like providing strategy, mentorship, and big thinking. And, with regard to the execution, being open to handing off day to day deliverables to client in-house teams, ideally, while maintaining oversite of the work that those internal teams are doing. Creating a real Partner Centered relationship that allows the Agency to hand hold the client’s internal team will be huge for client and Agency.

This will make the Agency much more agile and flexible in how they support their Client Partner. Does the client need a regularly present Agency Brain that is constantly looking at the broad market holistically in their office to help drive consistent brand voice and execution and to think strategically and outside of their immediate industry mindset? Yes, of course they do, even if their initial reaction is no.

Agencies will also need to focus more on emerging technology execution; the hard, new things. Drive the high level work required behind data science and analytics (this will also be a huge core service offering for Agencies, and they should be a partner in owning and parsing that data). Owning the brand and technology strategies and creative oversite, while letting the client art departments execute on the day to day “blocking & tackling” of graphic production under the Agency CD involvement should be a big area of focus, and will be a huge support for the client.

As with graphic production, Agencies need to feel comfortable passing off web and other low entry tech platform maintenance to client teams where it makes sense based on their needs, but again continue to drive strategy, execution oversite, data ownership and analytics, long term planning, etc.

We live in a parsed world, and it is increasingly becoming more niched and separated and targeted.

Some of the things we are working on with our Biz Dev in the next year is to find and create opportunities for us as an agency and individually to be out in the community more so potential clients can find us as much as we are looking to find them.

We plan on putting ourselves into positions to be presenting, meeting, showcasing; giving fun, behind the scenes peeks at some of the things we have been involved in, such as; our annual Comedy Film Festival that draws over 1000 people a year; the process behind designing and producing one of our clients global conference opens every year which includes writing and producing an original song with full orchestra and vocals, creating the live version with 3d projection mapped video wrappers and 100 live performers for a an audience of 15,000; delivering a strategy driven, but fun, State Fair campaign with tons of goofy targeted content; creating apps and software for large enterprise companies; building long term trusted partner relationships simultaneously, and more.

I obviously have a lot of passion around this subject and it is a big conversation, and I have only begun to scratch the surface. If you are ever interested in digging into it deeper – agreeing with me, or better yet, disagreeing with me, let’s connect, especially if you are on the client side. We can have food simultaneously in the afternoon, post breakfast time.

It is an exciting time to be in this industry, let’s get in front of it together.

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