Future of agencies

Hugh’s been writing about the business model of ad agencies and how it’s becoming defunct.

Partly, this is about revenue being based on promotional activity; meaning agencies get rewarded for making noise rather than supporting innovation; for dressing things up rather than seeing the potential of the gaps.

The other part, I think, is that agencies are stuck thinking: we’re the smart ones, let us come and put some of our ideas into your business.

I don’t think either part will work so well in a conversational economy. There, great ideas will probably evolve from the lively, smart conversations companies have – directly – with their customers.

For me, smart conversations require a certain amount of courage, taking risks to speak uncomfortable truths. That’s not a strong suit for many agencies, stuck in the wishful thinking business of dressing mutton as lamb.

I also think smart conversations allow us to explore with others the things we don’t know. Stepping into the unknown is not second nature to a business that likes to bluff…

6 thoughts on “Future of agencies

  1. bmo

    most agencies have been geographically friendly to client head office. most agencies have had a list of clients, each filling a category. most creatives – the people who add value by humanizing the dreck – have been forced to work on all sorts of businesses – all of this has been channelled through the essentially standard screen (research and marketing)

    So….if all this is to disappear – not convinced it will – I suppose the eye around which all this conversation will take place is in the interest/expertise/passion area.

    Tell me not what you’ve done, but what you love, what you do in your spare time, what you live for…

    So…twin people who love what they do/make with people who do more than make/do in business…then you’ve got a business model. Maybe.

    I don’t know, though. Middlemen have a talent for surviving and I’m not sure that there are many businesses that aspire to more than shoving commodties at folk and, more, I’m not sure that information necessarily creates smarter markets – it’s a flattering proposition, though.

  2. Davi Burn

    Do corporations still need help shaping their public image? Yes.

    Do they need help to carry on this new conversation with digitally-empowered consumers? Yes, they need help.

    Ad agencies are in no danger of disappearing. They will learn a few new tricks to add to their time-tested routines.

    That some of the new “tricks” might be vehicles for authentic (but still branded) conversation is an exciting development.

  3. fouro

    Dunno if it answers your question Bru, but I made an attempt to tackle this issue through the eyes and ears of our odd little hybrid of a shop. (Johnnie, I think you took note of it sometime back.)

    …and so, “My” bullet points are mine. You have to craft your own. From what you know and believe to be true: What you want, what you can do, who else wants it, and why they should care. We refine our own ideas about the way things ought to be. And then, we each help our customer discover their own unique set of bullet points, a process made easier thanks to the knowledge we gained in searching out and refining our own. We repeat for others what we’ve legitimately done for ourselves. Otherwise, we’re just playing doctor, aren’t we? Well?

    Yes. We are. And we know it. And our clients know it. Therefore, given that choice, if somebody’s going to practice without a license, they trust themselves with their own health more than they trust us. So they opt to self-diagnose and ask us to execute or perhaps tinker with their already half-formed idea of who they think they should be–because they don’t trust us to tell them who they really are… link

    Didn’t mean to bigfooot your coments Johnnie. I’ll go stand in the corner, now.

  4. All things Bru

    the Hughtrain Mainfesto

    Just a couple of quicknotes about the Hughtrain manifesto, just released by Hugh McLeod on ChangeThis, and inspired by the Cluetrain manifesto. These are the two concept tha mainly hit me: A brand is a place, not a thing: Media is not ʻentert…

  5. Johnnie Moore

    Thanks for the comments. I suppose I don’t know what’s going to happen to agencies, I was just speculating.

    David’s right, some will evolve and some will carry on regardless and survive.

    And I can’t help thinking that the rise of the blogosphere is going to encourage more independent thinking and less reverence for the old agency model.

    Anyway, whatever the world does, I know what I’d rather be doing with clients, and it ain’t mutton-dressing 🙂


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