The Agency of the future will have to 're-orient' and not merely 'reinvent'

By Anisha Motwani, Marketing & Digital Strategist, Max Group of Companies


Anisha Motwani, Marketing & Digital Strategist, Max Group of Companies

With fast paced technology progress and increasing social adoption, the word is not ‘reinvent’, but “re-orient”. And this re-orientation would have to be a continuous process with all agencies of the future.

With consumers evolving by the day, their way of dealing with brands also keeps evolving. For this digitally networked consumer, everything is a ‘tap’, ‘touch’, ‘click’, ‘like’, ‘share’ or a ‘buy’ away. And, their friends are also a tap, touch, click and a whats app message away! The process of wooing a customer has reduced to a few days and buying times have also reduced. And, hence the re-orientation is desired that would bring in more focus and speed.

What is important for the agencies and marketers to understand is that the clear lines that used to divide the agency and client are now dotted and the culture would increasingly have to become more collaborative. Marketers have begun to understand the need for having real-time conversations and responding to the pulse of the customer. If your sales person can handle a customer on the shop floor, why can’t there be a person to deal with customers online and the job is not just left to your agency to post responses? This era demands brands to be responsive. The customer is saying “Talk to me, give me a response. I am calling out your name, so I can get some glory, acknowledge me. Show the personality your brand is”. Now, can the agency be a brand’s face in these cases? Maybe or maybe not.

The re-orientation would, hence, also mean that agencies shun their traditional cloak and get into the real ‘business’ understanding and not just have ‘brand’ understanding.

The All Rounder vs. The Specialist

Traditionally, agencies have tried to create a “one-stop-shop” and have wanted to go out and claim to the world “We do absolutely everything”. Now, that approach will be counter-productive.

In this day and age of multiple platforms, multiple technologies and multiple consumer touch-points and maturing marketing channels are increasingly integrated. This factor dictates the need for a converged media strategy which is often better served by the embedding of specialist agencies. Increasingly, there will be a departure from a ‘generalist, know and do it all’ approach to a ‘specialist approach’.

What we see today is that the marketing team is at the centre surrounded by a federation of agencies who specialize in various parts and components of the marketing mix: advertising creative, media, digital, social, experiential, CRM and so on. But, as we go forward, we will see more and more brands hiring a “lead agency”, which is responsible for integrating the services of a constellation of specialist agencies.  P&G’s “Brand Agency Leader (BAL)” model is the most prominent example of this.

Agencies will have to adopt Converged Media Strategy

Brands will increasingly take up the services of a Specialized Digital Consultant to draw a long term strategic roadmap in line with business objectives and brands’ needs. The Client, Digital Consultant and the Lead Agency will collaborate to conceive a fully integrated Digital Strategy that will touch upon every marketing channel and leverage the strengths of all of these channels.

In future, it would no longer remain practical to have a strategy for search, another strategy for paid media, a strategy for social media, an additional content marketing strategy and other functions. This approach for creating sub strategies will get redundant.

Convergence of Ideas and Technology under one roof

We have seen how ‘Idea shops’ and ‘Technology shops’ were two separate entities but not anymore. The lines are definitely blurring. There are enough examples we know of, IT consulting companies getting into the game and are acquiring Digital Agencies (Deloitte and Accenture purchased digital marketing firms in 2013 to form Deloitte Digital and Accenture Interactive; IBM has been involved in this area since the late ‘90s and their agency is called Interactive Experience. Sapient has a specialized division called Nitro).

The Lead Agencies of the future will also have to acquire the technology acumen and become technology consultants for their clients. Their role in this area would be to recommend 3rd party tools, to build applications and eventually, handle multiple technology platforms for the clients to serve the brand’s customers and the brand’s needs while also taking care of the agency reporting and collaboration needs. Also, there would be a need for agencies to get involved in the strategic decision-making of the companies they work with.

Delivering to the Client vs. Delivering to the End Customer

Till now, Agency DNA has been hardwired to put the brand at the center of everything it does. However, the agency of tomorrow will have to put the consumers of the brand at the center. This will mean that agencies will have to put in place ‘customer excellence cohorts” that will build skill across all channels and functions riding on the understanding that consumers don’t search specifically for brands or companies but look to solve their problem.

 A renovated account structure with best of the best – Publishing, Design, Tech & Analytics

The typical “client servicing & creative team” structure will be passé. The team will be a broader one having new skill sets in place. Apart from the account management and creative, we will see community managers, content editors, data specialists, developers, channel experts, etc.

There will be rise of new positions like:

  • The data driven account owner who possesses business understanding skills is adept at analytics and can assume the role of a project manager.
  • The conversationalist who exhibits brand expertise can drive engagement and knows how to manage relationships with customers.
  • The agile content creator who can straddle across designing graphics and creating videos can manage data visualization and can also play an editorial role.
  • The customer insight specialist who can scientifically handle the huge amounts of customer data that brands possess today (generated from all sources and touch points) and can do quantitative analysis to derive trends and guide brands on content creation.

These complex roles will be hard to recruit and agencies will have to recruit, train and retain the personnel they put in these positions.

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