Back to the full-service future

By Wenlei Ma | 28 June 2013
Could we see a return to the full-service model, like in the Mad Men era?

The debate about any return to a full-service agency model rages on but data from Dentsu has suggested clients would prefer to have more bundled services and less complexity.

A client survey conducted by the agency found more than twice as many marketers preferred a bundled services agency (34%) to unbundled services agencies (14%). The majority (52%), though, were unswayed by either model and conceded there were strengths and weaknesses to both.

The greatest strength marketers saw in a bundled offer was less complexity (74%), ranging from fewer people to work with, more effective integration of marketing strategies and integration of campaigns. Twenty-eight percent nominated greater cost efficiencies as a strength.

However, 50% of marketers said the strength of unbundled services agencies was having specialist skills across their business. The top services marketers would be looking for in a bundled offer, in order, were creative, brand planning/brand strategy, digital media, digital creative, media planning, website and app development and media buying.

Dentsu Australia chief executive John O’Connor said he was seeing changes on the client side and they weren’t necessarily looking for a one-stop shop, but less complications.

“I think agencies need to look for points of convergence and opportunities to simplify. I don’t think the concept of a bundled offer is well sold and it’s old-school thinking in many respects,” he said. “My prediction is in the future, we will have businesses that are advisory, centred around consultancy, and ones that are production. Agencies will either sit in one, the other or both.”

CumminsRoss chief executive Sean Cummins is an avid believer in the full-service model. “Brands live in one ecosystem so you should create and work for them in one ecosystem. Specialists are synonymous with an inability to collaborate because they believe they control the centre of the situation – but the brand isn’t defined by a channel. You can’t be a solo artist, you need to be orchestra,” he said.

“Every agency will eventually return to the full-service model. You can see it already. Media agencies are trying to get creative, ad agencies are doing more content, everyone is frantically trying to expand their services. Some will try and fail. The investment has to be met with success.

“Pure ad agencies which refuse to acknowledge the world outside their respective fields will fold – it’s Darwinian. The reality is in 10 years’ time, every major agency will be full-service.”

Cummins said 70% of his agency’s clients used the firm as a full-service partner, including for media planning and buying. After two and a half years in business, CumminsRoss already has 90 staff.

A prominent example of a client’s desire for bundled services was in 2012 when General Motors chief marketing officer Joel Ewanick created Commonwealth, an agency comprised of its existing ad partners, to service the Chevrolet business.

This article first appeared in the 28 June 2013 edition of AdNews, in print and on iPad. Click here to subscribe for more news, features and opinion.

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