Separation of the media function from ‘full service’ advertising agencies happened in simpler times and it was not created to meet client needs. It was done to enable media departments to take business from other agencies. It was a holding company growth and profit strategy. For 20 years it also improved choices for clients. Media choices were relatively simple and dealing with two partners with distinct roles was not onerous.
Now, the model is broken and no-one appears to know how to fix it.
The problem is that the once distinct line between content and channel is fuzzy. It is impossible to create communication ideas without understanding how to reach and engage the audience. Conversely, it is impractical to choose the media channel without considering how to make the message engaging.
So ‘creative’ and media agencies have to work together and the client has to hold the reins. The marketing director may also feel the need to engage other agencies in specialist fields such as search, social, DM or experiential. Time-consuming, slow, expensive and cumbersome.
Creative and media agencies now compete for these specialist territories, both ‘sides’ claiming to have the skills. It is hard enough for the client to choose the best skills, but now he or she has to work out the best agency model for their business.
A return to traditional full-service agencies isn’t going to happen.
Apart from 303Lowe, I can’t think of a traditional agency of any size with in-house creative and media skills. I don’t see creative agencies ever taking back, or setting up, media buying capabilities. Nor do I see large media agencies attracting the talent that would obviate the need for creative agencies.
As good as the best creative and media agencies are (and I think they are good, given the cost pressures placed upon them), they are not structured to meet the holistic needs of business.
What most clients want is simple.
1. Great marketing communication ideas that will generate additional, profitable sales.
2. Implementation of these ideas with maximum cost efficiency.
The opportunity is to combine the creative content and channel strategy under one roof and outsource implementation to media buying agencies and production houses.
A new wave agency would meet these client needs:
- Creation of exceptional revenue growth ideas (content AND channel). For this they will need senior account directors with an understanding of business, great strategy planners and creatives, and great media strategists.
- Identification of best value implementation partners (production and media buying, and possibly even art directors and writers). For this they will need a procurement director (who will also be handy for dealing with clients’ procurement people).
- Management of implementation. For this they will need razor-sharp project management – not junior account execs. On time, on budget.
- Analysis of data pre-campaign to assist the planning process, and post-campaign analysis of results to aid future effectiveness and efficiency. For this they will need data analysts.
There are agency networks that may have all these skills but name one single agency than can do all that across any and every communications channel.
The opportunity is there and so is the client need.
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