The future of agencies

Advertising has always been an open playing field.

If you have the money and a product or service to push, you (or your advertising agency of choice) can create an advert and get it placed somewhere you hope will be seen by the right audience.

Anyone can do this. You don’t need to be any kind of an expert to spend money in any way, advertising included. However, a good media planning and buying agency will provide rationale and justification for the spend. You should expect that an agency will do a better job than ‘anyone’ because of their industry experience and expertise.

The changes we envision for the industry are dramatic – but we don’t see the agency/client relationship, the essential reason for an agency in the first place, changing anytime soon. There will always be a market for organisations who want to make sure their advertising campaigns are run as efficiently and successfully as possible, and for agencies who are able to consistently deliver on that.

That isn’t to say there won’t be change though.

The future will see change for agencies

First and foremost; small is beautiful

The big full-service agencies run huge overheads. They have to keep massive teams of staff on, even when they don’t need massive teams of staff, while the cost of office space in London, New York and Tokyo isn’t getting any cheaper. Someone has to pay for these unnecessary costs – and you can bet it won’t be the agency.

Smaller agencies on the other hand are far more efficient. They also tend to have specialised knowledge in their reduced field. In the future, we see smaller agencies, the ones who can make quick decisions, as having the advantage. Lots of the industry is already freelance – because working on a per-project basis suits agencies so much. It is certainly better value for clients too.

Smaller agencies have to work harder at maintaining excellent industry peer relations because a good referral network can be the difference between success, or having a reputation for being unpleasant (or plain substandard) to work with. As above with the freelance model, a highly trusted network of smaller agencies allows for partnerships to be formed on an as-needed basis, reducing costs for both agencies and clients.

That isn’t to say that there won’t be big agencies (in fact, the biggest are continually getting bigger), but that there will be bigger gaps between the conglomerate giants and the small specialised agencies. The bulk of global advertising spend is hoovered up by just a few of the big players, but we don’t see that as a fixed long term trend. Organisations looking for value, local excellence and a personal approach will increasingly look to smaller agencies to find them.

Smaller agencies are also far better equipped to deal with the digital world – a world where TikTok, with its 1bn active monthly users, had under 1300 full-time employees in 2020. Size, or having an office in every major city, simply doesn’t matter the way it used to. Having a good product and the means to effectively and efficiently scale it is far more important. The ability to react to events quickly is far more important and big agencies will find that increasingly difficult to do. Digital media is a fast-changing environment and agencies need to be able to react to opportunities instantly to be able to take advantage of them.

Measure up

Measuring results has always been an important factor in advertising but we see it becoming even more so in the future. There is just so much good data now. Marketing budgets are going to be under ever more detailed scrutiny and it is the role of the responsible media planning and buying agency to provide good reasons for the way they spend their clients’ money. Targeting and tracking components have been given a huge boost in priority thanks to the ‘big data' revolution, and any channel (or agency) that falls short will lose out.

And finally, data and creativity will live happily ever after.

Although the increase in quality and quantity of data has been nothing short of immense, organisations (and their agencies) who focus on that without also placing a premium on creativity will fail. From designers to media planners – creativity is used to allow brands to speak to consumers.

The digitisation of marketing is happening, but the message still has to be the right one. Software can help a brand find out more about the audience and how to reach them, but up until the point that the software is able to pass the Turing Test, it will not be able to communicate with that audience. Creativity is a vital component across the industry and will remain so.

Jack of all trades or master of one?

We are specialists. We aren't a jack of all trades, rather a master of one. If you believe small is beautiful, drop us a line today.

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