Is the regional agency model also under threat?

We have it on great authority from the most respected of commentators, industry bodies and publications that the traditional creative agency model is crumbling around our feet. Whilst most commentary is aimed at London’s finest agency set, if it’s true of the most famous of agencies, what does it mean for your average regional?

A great deal. Because we are at our core no different. Agency structure is determined by client need which is driven by consumer need. And consumer interaction with advertising is changing. Fast. And any agency, whether up-town or down-dale needs to keep pace.

The exciting observation is that for astute ‘regionals’ the future could be very bright indeed. Pressure on agencies to provide a more responsive creative service, greater entrepreneurialism and a new value-based charging structure gives us the chance to steal a march because we don’t suffer from the same legacy issues as most of our more famous counterparts.

There has always been latent demand for regional agencies but what is changing is our increasing ability to tease blue-chip clients ‘down the road’ to take up the promise of something more agile. But the mix of work we are being asked to manage is changing faster than you can say ‘disintermediate’.

To cut to the chase, we must provide our clients with more. Because the trend is for clients to give us less. If you don’t adapt, you will lose out. The seismic growth in social and content channels has increased the number of clients believing they can take work in-house. And as a result, they’re questioning the whole ecosystem behind what they are prepared to pay an agency to provide.

Accept it. The model is changing and make no mistake it is a threat to those who cannot embrace it. But how? According to the IPA’s report, ‘The Future of Marketing and Agencies’ published in June this year, the key factors we must get to grips with are:

  • The convergence of technological platforms to a seamless interface
  • More real-time analytics to make sense of big data
  • Automation of processes and programmatic buying
  • The necessity of being always on – providing a 24-hour service.

So in 2016’s agency, what’s the answer? The consensus appears to be that there are three thriving agency models:

  1. You can be a one-stop shop which can offer clients everything from the comfort of one agency relationship (like our sister agency Bray Leino).
  2. You can be part of a much larger group that offers the best of all worlds (like us at RLA where our wholly-owned position with The Mission affords our clients access to a multitude of talent).
  3. Or you can be a specialist, providing highly capable services in a much narrower field.

What direction you choose is up to you but one thing’s certain, being stuck in the middle is not a place you want to be.

For clients, using lots of specialists has its problems though. It’s akin to the manager of a football team signing the best players specifically for the position they play. It doesn’t mean that the team plays well, especially if players are on a bonus only if they score – inevitably no one focuses on the job they should be doing to help the team win, and results aren’t achieved. Getting it right takes a lot of effort from the client (manager), matching agencies and remunerating in a way that benefits all.

What it boils down to is how successfully your proposition matches the needs of your client’s rapidly changing business landscape. Nobody’s got the future model right yet but it matters not a jot whether you’re based in Shoreditch or like us, in the UK’s fastest growing digital economy in 2015, the sunny south coast hub of Bournemouth.

If a client sees your physical location as an issue, look deeper. They’re probably using your location as an excuse. It’s more likely they simply haven’t seen a compelling enough argument to make them ache to work with you – it’s just easier to tell you that the A34’s a nightmare and they need to be home to pick up the kids by 3:30pm.

Chris Goodwin, CEO, RLA

Tel: 01202 597140

Email: chris.goodwin@rla.co.uk

Web: www.rla.co.uk

Twitter:@rlagroup