Robin Grant at We Are Social wrote a post around a presentation he created on the evolving agency landscape. He named it "The Future of Advertising Isn't Advertising." He offers a view of how agencies (successful agencies, I presume) will re-assemble around social media.
I think successful agencies will reassemble around business acceleration. They will become relentless about learning and applying any discipline that can help their client meet today's and tomorrow's business challenges. Today that includes dramatically shifting from marketing mix-thinking to reflect true consumer behavior around social and digital. Tomorrow, it will likely be the effect social media will have on the entire enterprise.
I love reinvention. Complacency kills. But so does fanaticism. We have been reinventing the agency for some time. First, we were pressed by the world transformation by everything that can be called 'digital.' Then, we needed to embrace all that is "social' once it became clear to everyone that the explicit and implicit changes brought about by it were irrevocable and great. Some of us were fanatical about the change and it sounded like we were throwing everything great that had been accomplished in marcom. That wasn't the way to go. Two things happened along the way:
- we really changed
- we realized that we will always be changing
Converging on Social Media
Robin makes the case that all of the traditional agency types - media, advertising, communications and digital - are converging around social media. The success stories will be formed around 5 expertises to define "a new agency." Here are Robin's ingredients:
- An innate sensibility for social media
- A deep understanding of digital marketing
- Using PR techniques evolved from PR
- Strategic, editorial and creative talent
- Research and analysis expertise
I actually believe that the next success stories will be driven by three principles:
- they will be organized around influence vs. the marketing mix
- they will be fully integrated in all the ways that matter
- they will mix the rigor of mature disciplines with innovation around new ones
Organized around influence - Shopper marketing; social CRM; integrated strategy (owned, earned & paid media), environmental marketing, cultural marketing - these are all disciplines that emerge in response to how customers behave and think - how they are influenced. No doubt that interruptive advertising is no longer the 'blunt instrument' in the top of everyone's toolbox. We are now expressing a lot more empathy towards consumers and constituents and finding better ways to earn their attention and involvement (and ultimately their business). How people are influenced - from advertising to consumer-based earned media to just-in-time utility delivered to POS - is more important than the traditional marketing mix org structure
Fully integrated - Agencies are a business model. Adaptive teams are an operational model. Adaptive teams are assembled and adjusted based upon what it will take to solve the client problem or accelerate their business. These experts are pulled together based upon their contribution to the solution and client. They may belong to other tribes for the sake of discipline development (my folks come from the social media "tribe") and they come together to work as a team. Agencies who do everything possible to allow for the friction-less formation of these teams will win. Big or small agency is a pointless argument (except I think "big agencies" have an advantage again so long as they really make team work the priority. After all, they have the best experts from many disciplines who understand how integration works).
Mix of rigorous discipline and innovation - No doubt that social media significantly changes the game for brands. But it doesn't burn all previous marcom logic to the ground. What we need now is a mix of the best of marketing and communications disciplines - key skills like reputation management, CRM, interactive usability - and new POVs born from social media and the behaviors it serves.
The New Kind of Agency
So if these are the principles, then I would define the following ingredients to form "the New Agency:"
Social Brand Management - brands have a new side to them. Its how they behave on Facebook. It's what they do to provide more value like delivering utility or entertainment. It may not turn brand management on its head but it certainly requires new skills and insights.
Blended Strategy - you have your blended teams and now your blended strategy. It should be a strategy to accelerate business. It will include marketing, communications, customer service, sales and more.
Customer Experience Design & Management - whether in a Web site, facebook app, or physical storefront, nothing could be more important today than the customer experience. In loyalty studies, customers' crave simplicity. If we can make their experience to checkout 5% easier, we have really helped.
Conversation Management - okay, call it community management, I don't care. I do think our ability to manage conversations with communities of customers and stakeholders will be key to clients and agencies for the foreseeable future.
Always-on Research and Insight - from cgm listening to search intent modeling to polling and more, we have added a collection of fast, responsive research techniques to our everyday work.
Performance Marketing - nothing happens without great measurement. We will finally enter the age of dashboards where we are able to refine all of the bazillion things we can measure into simple, actionable views.
Adaptive Team Model - we will expend significant energy to reducing barriers to cross-discipline team work, enhancing how we work virtually and how creative gets done in a networked universe where many more people are 'creative.'
Efficient Production - we have to respond to business needs for lower cost and quick "operationalizing" anything that works.
Robin's got a good view of the agency of the future. I have added some things that come from our own transformation. There will be no more "ad agencies" in the future. Those that were defined by advertising in the past will become the new agency lest they be reduced to buying boxed sets of Madmen and drinking gin martinis till they pass out on a Monday night.