As if the fragmentation of media itself wasn’t enough, agencies these days are wrought with such a hyper-evolutionary state of marketing disciplines across the board, it’s often mind boggling. So today I want to revisit one the fundamental reason why I started this blog – to focus on the blurring of media, marketing, creative & technology.
The New Agency Structure
The new agency will emerge from the old agency structure and will be similar, except it won’t. Continued consolidation and agency service re-bundling will be driving the charge forward. To a degree agencies are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Reinventing yourself takes time and money. In order to prevent an agency’s value from being commoditized and to compete against a swarm of small and nimble specialists in the market requires experience and attentive focus on the details and nuances of each channel and discipline. To date most of the major agencies who have accomplished this have done so via acquisition. Some have attempted organic development, but rarely has organic growth in specialized digital marketing proven to be successful (prove me wrong). But for mid-sized agencies, the newer marketing specialties are predominantly outsourced, thus eroding their market potential and margins, and ultimately the perceived strategic value to clients. It is essential for agencies to have a well rounded suite of digital services. As clients become more savvy, and more emphasis shifts to digital over the next several years, this will increasingly be the case. Particularly because of the blurring of once linearly separated disciplines.
Media is changing drastically (I know, a resounding “DUH” is reverberating in your head after reading that statement of the over obvious). But articulating how it has changed and what it means to the development of your agency is the key to successfully changing along with it. Whereas, generally speaking, the application of marketing within media would fall into clearly defined pillars of “advertising” or “PR”, each with some subsegments that were somewhat also clearly defined. We are now entering a chaotic era of something beyond fragmentation – it is the splintering of media. A special note for the digirati that read my blog, this pertains to all media, not just what we now refer to as digital channels – ie: there are more out-of-home and broadcast opportunities than ever before, and VOD is bound to become true iTV one day in the future as well. The introduction and mass adoption of social media tools has created a market of engagement and conversation that cuts across the lines of media, creative, technology and PR. Social networking, blogging, microblogging, reblogging, lifestreaming (ok, so some of these activities are not yet “mass” as we would define the term) create the need to monitor not just measure, they create the need to immerse vs. flight campaigns, they ultimately force marketers to participate and actually become consumer centric, finally. Online macro and micro communities that may be relevant to your brand or product will congeal and self perpetuate within the context of a lifestyle or topical interest that can involve your brand or product, positively or negatively, whether you like it or not, with or without your involvement.
Consumers have the ability to interact across platforms and channels (social media, mobile, IM, email, etc) and this has far reaching implications on how agencies need to restructure to assist clients in producing content, distributing marketing experiences, and measuring the return of our collective marketing efforts. The silos are breaking down. “Integration” and being “consumer centric” can no longer be buzzwords, these phrases must be mantras. Agencies must do what it takes to manifest these mantras across all staff and processes. You may need to take a step backwards to take two steps forward, by investing in training and education, and investing in staff or acquisition. The margins and strategic value to clients are worth the investment. Have you focused on the right investments over the last 3 years? Will your business fail without the proper investment and effort? Not yet, but eventually natural selection kicks in.