Forrester’s Sean Corcoran asks this rather existential question of us all:
“The agency model was built during a time when there were only a handful of channels in which they could push one way messages en masse. Does that model still work in a time when nearly a quarter of online US adults now create content online? Many more questions begin to arise as we open Pandora’s Box: Can one agency do it all? Are holding companies the answer? Can digital agencies compete with them and lead brands? Do marketers rely on agencies like they used to? Should marketers consolidate their agencies or de-centralize to dozens of agency partners? Are technology providers and crowd sourcing legitimate threats? Where is this all going?
Where to start? Well, probably with the caveat that while everyone has an opinion and best guess on where things are going, no one knows for sure. What some people predict as being a revolution may turn into the status quo – after all, Forrester says that:
64% of marketers continue to allocate budgets across marketing disciplines based on historical spending
So this is just that, my best guess.
Secondly, the question seems to focus on the rise of the digital agency and presumes that “online” in general, and social media specifically, will impact on the client-agency dynamic. Just a note to say that while digital, online and social are all increasing in importance, we need to remember that we are not going to be recommending an online campaign for the sake of it (remember my “Foundation of all exceptional marketing programmes” post on the need to match the tactics to the audience).
However, if this new discipline of social media, which we have all embraced so heartily is to drive change, here’s what I see happening. Hint: it’s about integration.
No one marketing discipline has the right to “own” social media with the client. There are too many smart people working in the agency world for that to happen – and all of us can bring something new to the table. Strategic planners can derive great insight from the target which can feed into the overarching creative concepts. Advertising can bring scale to the campaign, reaching many with a large funnel, driven by insight. Media planners can ensure the right message gets to the right people through the right, and appropriate channels. Public Relations can support the core message and earn media which earns the consumer’s trust. Digital agencies can build sophisticated communities or destinations to aggregate, enhance and ignite conversations. Direct marketing can ensure no one gets left behind and provide online/offline integration. Point of Sale can reinforce messages to the consumer AND draw them into the funnel.
Even social media agencies/practices like com.motion can bring something to the table in the form of enabling and adding to the insight that drives the campaign. We can represent the end user by feeding in strategic recommendations and tactical executions which we know will tesellate with their interests and habits. We can manage the community and bring continuity to the micro-interactions stakeholders have with organizations online. We can earn online media from a rapidly fragmenting pool of key influencers
Yes, social media specialists have a role in social media marketing 😉
So that’s it. Same same but different. The rise of social media and digital marketing means that we now have another channel to collaborate on and around with our agency partners. For the brand or marketing manager, it means that incumbent agencies should clear some room for one more seat at the table – if appropriate for the communications goals, objectives and strategy. This is a good thing. The more smart, passionate people who can contribute (constructively) to a campaign, the better.
It also means there is another, more important role up for grabs, transcending the digital/social media debate. It means there is a role for a marketing integrator to oversee how the supporting agencies collaborate.
What do you think? Where do you think the agency is going?