Look Pa, the Internets all grown up. Or if you’re an traditional ad agency, you just might be f’d.

The default Home screen of the iPhone shows mo...
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70% of your target audience uses the mobile web

%50 is on FB

%60 reads blogs

%50 watch online video regularly

30% is on Twitter

Only 12% watch American Idol

Ed. Note: This is not a far fetched

Are you really going to run another television campaign just like last years? Are you going to expect it to improve your client’s sales because the creative is fresh and a little less watered-down? And are you then going to rationalize it by throwing in a couple of after thought digital things like an iPhone app that somehow ties into your television spots?

If you are, you’re not alone. Is it possible you’re screwing yourself faster than you’re screwing your client? Well, good thing the client’s interactive shop can’t do branding. Oh wait, they’re starting to fight for that business now, aren’t they?

In a recent provocative post, Bud Cadell says many agencies and their models are broken for good. I certainly agree that some agencies may finally be ready for the waste bin of history but we must also recognize that agency Bill Bernbach thought was a dinosaur is still going and reaping in much, much larger billings than the agencies that are now professed to be the way of the future.

While these dino agencies may not be barometers of the future, they sure are a great example of what the clients are demanding. And as wants have changed over the years, so have the big, bloated account service driven shops. They adapted with TV and took baby steps with their clients to the internet. And now, many are in acquisition mode, acquiring the talent and bandwidth needed to service their large clients in the Web 2.0 world. Sure, they’re way behind now but they were also way behind Bernbach in the creative revolution.

Ten years ago, I was convinced the new breed of MBA advertising manager, and the rise of the CMO role on the client side, meant a more sophisticated client and less reliance on big agencies for heavy lifting. Silly me, I thought this would be a boon for smaller shops and boutique agencies. Instead the next decade was a feeding fest for holding companies – swallowing up the agencies they didn’t run out of business. And adverting managers and CMOs still relied heavily on agencies as their own jobs grew more complex with the rise of new media and more demands of productivity and ROI from within.

The next decade will probably be even more complicated than the last for marketers. And even more complicated for agencies as they struggle to provide value for their clients in a rapidly changing media landscape. There’s a good chance that I’ll be as wrong as I was 10 years ago but I think there is still a lot of “value” that good old ad agencies can provide their clients.

Clients in the future will need

Strategy: Clients struggle with this one internally, not because of a lack of brain power but because of a lack of objectivity and an abundance of politics.

Creativity and production: Sure they can crowd source ideas but agencies are good at sticking to a strategy, bringing talent together, managing creativity and producing something on time.

Development – Long the unwanted job of the interactive agency, traditional agencies that can integrate this effectively with a marketing communications plan will show value over siloed efforts.

Clients in the future won’t need but will still probably still buy

Account management: Clients these days are supposed to be managing the brand themselves but they love having someone to call for experienced advice. Agencies have been toying with eliminating this position or transitioning it to more of a project management job. But it still creates revenue. Account managers of the future will have to be great project managers, client managers and understand digital beyond “I’ll ask my interactive guy.” And great ones will also need some strategy chops.

Media planning and buying: This can easily be contracted to a specialist media agency but when you have your account management at the agency, there’s a good chance some shops will still continue to reap profits from media services.

What advertising clients don’t need and won’t buy

This is a trick heading. Advertisers will buy just about any business service from an agency that provides value. Agencies that are survivors, survive because they are good problem solvers for clients. The task of our business is to solve marketing problems and apply marketing solutions to business problems. Because client problems are constantly changing, marketers will need partners that can adapt and throw bandwidth at their current problem quickly. They don’t want to hire in-house for what may be perceived as a temporary problem – let the agency hire, adapt and fire staff – our business does that well.

What does this agency look like? It’s big but it runs on a lean mixture. It has strategists who are comfortable with the web and outdoor. Art directors who know what HTML5 is, copywriters who blog and can tweet about more than their breakfast, and developers who collaborate with the creatives. Producers who aren’t siloed between Web, broadcast and print. And account managers who can use tools like Bootcamp.

These agencies will create products that may be advertising, may be events or may even be more like online movements. They could be a dinosaur that has evolved into a lizard agency or they maybe been an interactive agency that picked up responsibility for the entire brand or a even great creative agency that merged with an interactive one. Whatever the case, there will be less room for traditional shops that don’t get digital or digital shops that don’t do branding but I don’t see the death of an entire industry.

Posted on: February 18, 2010, by :