How the Agency of the future looks like?


How the Agency of the future looks like? Strategic. Won’t be replaced by AI. It doesn’t manages little stuff. Brings Insights on narratives. Works for long-term growth orchestrating Ideas. It has Tribes, virtual spaces, no hierarchies, or ‘Heritage’ barriers but only top-expert teams. Tough? Blame it on the market…

How the Agency of the future looks like?

It will not be easy to describe, but let’s give it a try. Today we know according to PwC’s survey, AAAA studies and local reports that Brand meaningful interactions have become more influential than Advertising (in all channels). No matter the budgets, market position, or channel.

We’re in the midst of a highly anticipated revelation time in the Marketing world. The ‘old-timers’ will be confronted with the demanding pressure to explain (to their bosses) where do they spend their money, and if the multi-million euro sponsorships, paid search campaigns, outdoor, displays, and Instagram influencers bring any substantial results at all.

The transformation has started…

Great customer experiences result in up to a 16% price premium on products and services, increased loyalty, willingness to try new products and openness to share personal data, according to PwC’s latest Consumer Intelligence Series survey. Moreover, 65% of consumers say that a positive experience is more influential than advertising or marketing.

If you ask multinationals, importers, or local small shop owners, chain retailers, B2B marketers, agency leaders, telecoms, FMCG owners activating on Facebook, who are assigned to win customers and revenue, “Do you have a customer experience budget?” you will not get an answer. Companies have marketing (push-pull) budgets, digital and outsourcing support budgets, product development and OEM budgets, advertising budgets but no real Customer experience budget.

Gartner’s 2017–18 CMO Spend Survey showed that companies with $5 billion in sales commit more than 11% of their annual revenue to marketing, but they don’t activate on Customer experience which impacts (and sometimes blocks…) reputation (PR), traffic (web presence), Engagement (Social), and message reception (Advertising).

Think about that for a minute. What does this mean for Agencies?

It means that if the Client doesn’t mature in the age of Customer Brand experiences and Reputation …if the Client is still in the “mass’ (bombardment) era (even with a digital brief), then the Agency will perform in routine.

The agency will not be able to lead and innovate. In order to survive, it will passively get as many projects it can absorb. Right or Wrong? What if the Agency pays less and less attention to its positioning, and its future (service & delivery) evolution?

The Future Agency will be the Strategist, no matter its segment

In Ad Age’s numerous segment reports one can realize that the Ad, Creative, Digital, and PR ‘silos’ are about to change. Coming closer. Unifying Client’s business issues into channel-agnostic activations.

Today they continue to cannibalize the same market pie. They all come from different directions, but at the end, they all compete for same activations, online, paid media, stories, loyalty builders, even events trying to disposition their numerous parity, competitive offers.

But the signs are here already three years. In the wake of AI, new agency models appear. Real Strategists! …not claiming to be, simply by presenting the rationale behind a proposal!

Some of these new agencies simply being ‘sexy’ (looking fresh), some of them really offering a diversified service. In their work, you see a holistic view. You feel a more creative way of thinking. You get that they are the strategic Brand navigators.

They already populate the Marketing Communications global industry, being on top the past agency networks: IBM iX, 72 And Sunny, Strawberry Frog, Taxi, Big Spaceship, The Bank, Pocket Hercules, David & Goliath, Mother, Moosylvania, Creature.

There is no single future model, but they are obviously service experiments, trying to connect the dots for the Client and save resources and budgets. It isn’t a mere effort of theirs to bring everything under one roof. Their Service model focuses on the Brands’ ‘pain-points’: experience, design, innovation. See below stimuli:


Multinational agency groups will fight to survive

If you exclude WPP (because of size) and Publicis Groupe (because of its Innovation ventures), all the multinational agency groups will assign a dedicated Client (account) leader to oversee relationships with top accounts. But that’s not Re-invention.

The consolidated networks’ revenue (Ad Age’s Agency report 2017) shows Accenture in No1 position and then in the top-10, you see PWC digital, IBM IX, Deloitte Digital. These are agencies that invest in the digital transformation wave.

The Future Agency can’t be “offline” and “resistant”

Technology, data, consumer demands, financial pressures and marketers’ needs are changing rapidly. What will agencies have to do to stay ahead of this shifting industry?

First, they should be 100% digital. Oh no, we don’t mean simply knowing the social trade, but be able to propose innovative solutions that integrate web, SMS, customer support, bots – you name it! No more simply generalists. Tech is here: (ie.) globally, programmatic ad spend grew from $5bn in 2012 to $39bn in 2016, at an average rate of 71% a year.

Secondly, they must be truly adaptive. Not having an ‘old-dog’ as boss and pretending to modernize because of hiring some low-cost ‘digital-natives’… Oh no! They must own the true willingness to be more adaptive and reflective of Clients’ needs. Even if they must forget their description, PR, Ad, Digital…

The Future Agency will not deliver ‘BS’ Content

Nowadays the average Marketer, senior or newbie, retail or corporate, has more than 150 different content touchpoints, throughout the full Customer journey. They get lousy outcomes. The 76% of them see Content as their No1 challenge… because the agency market doesn’t provide.

Rest assured that Agencies will be forced to hire ‘old-timers’, senior copywriters (with no fancy titles), and journalists. If they don’t, then the Customer will hire those to replace the agency (as already 2-3 marketing friends have told me). Content will continue to be King as we go towards the automated ad era (automated and language learning scripts will be the toughest Content).

The Future Agency will focus on the Strategic Ideas

With data at hands and the Brands having lost their purpose (or positioning) the best Agencies will look and invest heavily in data to find the answers that Clients don’t know how to… Yes, Brands will need data strategies and Storytelling positioning scenarios in a combined format, so as to reach segmented communities and survive.

Do you think we’re crazy saying this? Then you work in a traditional agency imitated by 10 others, struggling to make the same revenue as you did 4 years ago, with an extreme increase in OpEx. The future will be about marrying Creativity with Data. And yes, Ad, PR, Digital, Big-4 all will need this competence.

“Any Communications service agency can be a 85% confusion and 15% commission”

PR Agencies have 6-7 survival years ahead

Until the full automation era, and until the Big-4 Consultancies get the reigns of the Marcomm market, the PR agencies still have an open space to lead. They can either integrate consulting, digital, content, influencer, and even paid media (real) specialists to their toolbox, or they can ‘pivot’ to unify all of these offerings in a Brand Orchestrator role.

Why do they have an open market space? Because the advertisers/marketers will have intense Brand and Company issues towards all stakeholders (most of the companies aren’t in-shape), after 5-8 years that they were investing only on the top-line (restructurings, mergers, liquidating portfolios etc.)

If traditional PR agencies can act as communications consultancy they have a strategic+creative advantage over management consulting firms. Changing (or evolving) their core DNA, the next step is to diversify their industry expertise offering. “There isn’t a Client market for this change” some might argue. Then stay in the old-world, simply adding an Insta photos’ service…

The Future Agency’s size will matter

Many global brands keep reducing fees and cutting back on agency rosters. Unifying output and reducing OpEx. Secondly, major Clients focus on top-line (or opportunity) markets, based on income or addressable market size. They will continue to have global Agency of record, but even this isn’t “secured”.

Small-medium size (local) Clients can’t afford to pay for unnecessary overhead, and they will experiment with freelancers. Average or not, they save on critical costs. But on the other hand, niche agencies will eventually fade out, because the non-multinational (local) companies aren’t growing.

The Future Agency / Big-4?

Global consultancies, like Deloitte and Accenture, may have a reputation and business-mentality advantage. They can’t still deliver on the Brand experiences’ Creative execution part, but they invest in their consulting relationships with marketers. With the data and IT ‘approach’ to Marketing, it is only a matter of time until they evolve.

For sure, they already are on the global scene and they will play a significant role. They have the cash to invest in this evolution. Even when they miss on executives’ seniority and competence, they can buy it. Their major advantage is their “culture” towards outcomes and a measurable approach to business and marketing. This attracts the C-level committees.

The ‘Mad Men’ fantasy for Advertising is over. You’ll never have enough dollars to buy enough Customers. But you can win them with meaningful Brand experiences…

Future Agency …Better, faster, and Cheaper can’t happen

The CEO of BBDO, John Osborn, recently described his vision for the future of the agency as ‘better, faster and cheaper’, because this is what Clients are asking for. This leads me to another thought. Agencies should find their purpose in the future context (read our previous article on the branding issues they face here).

It’s funny, in a way, that the CEO of BBDO has solved the famous project management problem: time, quality, money (you can’t achieve all!). Regardless, we do live in a world where clients are looking to depress the fees they pay, produce a higher quantity of effective work, and do it at the speed we used to call ‘real-time marketing’. Dear Clients, it will never happen…

Some Clients will try to act as a Future Agency

Kia’s CMO recently suggested that …brands can do some things faster than agencies can. Yes, a TV/Youtube commercial might take long from brief to completion. Lengthy meetings. Slow social media responses. Lengthy Creative reactions to Customer input. Delays in making a copy change etc.

I’m sure that many Clients will be teased to bring-in-house Marcomm functions. We were reading some examples:


The old-minded agency world still prefers to be an expensive, slow, broad “supermarket” offering. The future Agency will not do this. It will not focus on the ‘small stuff’, or on the routine of the ‘back-and-forth’ Creative and Media attempts. It will be the respected Strategist which combines UX/UI/EX and meaningful interactions in all touchpoints. It will work for Trust, Sales Growth, and People. 3in1.

Have you started your “Future Agency” evolution plan, or you simply ‘survive’? Will you hire a Reinvention officer? Have you discussed this with your agency people? Or do you have the right competence to evolve?

Communicating means you look to a Community of shared interests and beliefs, that is understanding Intimacy and mutual Valuing. This is a competence that ‘old-school’ Marketers, Communicators, and Agencies weren’t trained for…

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