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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  Building the Agency of Now. Some Pointers.

Building the Agency of Now. Some Pointers.

Posted on June 12, 2011 and read 2,122 times

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1cebd9d Building the Agency of Now. Some Pointers.Hilton Barbour
Marketing Provocateur

It strikes as somewhat ironic – or self-centred perhaps – that every time you engage somebody in our industry about “the future” or “keeping up”, their typical response is “the industry is changing too fast to keep up”. I’ve been hearing that for as long as I’ve been in the industry so it does feel a little passé.

Recently though, I’ve been confronted by a few situations which did suggest there was more merit to their response than I’d previously given them credit for.

So, here’s some thoughts and pointers looking ahead;

Stop trying to do everything : Repeat after me, the integrated, full-service, channel-agnostic, through-the-line agency is a pipe dream and no longer credible. In past lives, I’ve had clients ask me how one organization can purport to have the most amazing talent in every single discipline. We can’t. Today’s multiplicity of technologies, emerging platforms and dizzying consumer and business trends makes being an expert in all of them ever more impossible. Stop doing it.

Be a partnership polygamist : To the point above, find partners who are experts, who care deeply and obsess about niche areas of the communication spectrum. Have an alignment around passion, values and success but let them bring their true expert thinking to the mix, you bring yours. Ban the “Jack of all Trades” solution set from your vocabulary. You’re both more credible playing to your collective strengths than trying to do it all alone.

Create ideas…and products : Thirty seconds of film still has its place but the emerging demi-gods are the folks building actual stuff. “Did you see that cool shit” is now more likely to be about something on your phone than the ad that just ran on TV. Ergo, customers and clients increasingly need folks who can do more than just spout an idea but can actually build the tangible (and tactile) part of it too. You got folks who can do that? buckrodgers spacerockers 300x300 Building the Agency of Now. Some Pointers.

Get creative with your revenue streams : We’ve always struggled with fee and retainer agreements and the joy of staff utilization. We’ve moaned and complained about pay-per-performance models being ground in success metrics we can’t always control or affect. Totally fair. New paradigms exist though. Licensing models for software or applications your agency produces and your client uses. Revenue sharing of downloads from the App Store. All feasible if you’re prepared to redefine the way your clients actually pay you.

Be creative consultants beyond communications : Design thinking is a relatively new ethos in business culture. About time some would argue. Essentially many of tomorrow’s business ideas need disruptive thinkers to spawn them. Those used to generating ideas ground in strong conceptual design. Sound familiar. Consider ways you might take the design thinkers in your agency to tackle client problems beyond their advertising, website, packaging and in-store displays. Your ECD might not relish thinking about supply-chain hurdles but, in a design-centric way, she may just bring a fresh perspective to it.

One last thought. An old favourite. Not new at all.

Be agile : We still take too friggin long (massive sweeping statement) to do what our clients pay us for. Too long to ideate. Too long to scope. Too long to budget. Too long to execute.  We have to find ways to strip that stuff away. Product cycles, and consumer trends, move too quickly for us to play the way we’ve done for the past 5 decades. As creative thinkers we gotta be able to get these ideas out faster. Our customers demand it, our clients deserve it.

What do you think? Is any of this really futuristic or just table stakes? What’s your agency doing to stay ahead of the curve and be more lean-forward? I’d love to hear about it.

  • TimPonto

    Right on.  One problem –  it’ll never happen if we continue to think of this new marketing business as having any vestige of its former self. Using words like ‘agency’ ‘advertising’ or titles like ‘writer’ etc should be anathema. The whole industry needs to be blown up and started again from zero. Most of the people who peopled that former industry are too channel-brained to accommodate the flexibility required. In other words, stop trying to redefine the ad agency. Instead, build a new concept, with a new name and a new language. 

  • Joao Geada

    I’m doing it as you say. Go to to find out more. I only don’t agree with the first idea that we can’t do everything, I think that if we focus only on having the creative and srategic talent in house and get the proper partnerships we can deliver anything.

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