Real changes in the agency landscape are powered by people, not technology

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Gareth Moss, managing director, The Blueprint

by Gareth Moss, managing director, The Blueprint

Whether it’s the rise of social media, mobile, data and analytics or owned and direct media channels, there are many factors influencing the way that the agency landscape is being shaped right now. Despite the many advances in technology, however, it is people who are bringing about the greatest and deepest change.

It’s easy to overstate the impact of digital and how it has shaped agencies. From our perspective, we have placed some of the world’s most progressive people in top tier agencies over the past eight years. The placement of the right people at the right time to the right position is what drives the most effective change.

These appointments require agency heads to be committed to change across the whole organisation. The appointment of a Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Technology Officer or innovation focused Executive Creative Director means a fundamental shift in culture and direction. This requires agency heads to take bold decisions.

For five years now, communications agency structures have been in flux for the most forward looking businesses, others are only today waking up to the need for change. There have been many drivers: uncertain economic conditions, the disruption of traditional media channels, growth of integrated digital strategies and the increased ownership companies take directly over their brand IP. As a result, agencies have had to evolve.

At The Blueprint we are seeing the rise of a new breed of super consultancy, not dictated by size, more about an approach. A hybrid of high-level business consultancy meets creative product development factory. Agencies now need to go way beyond the traditional role of taking a product and providing the marketing around it. There have been many lessons from the past that says this has a limited impact.

Much deeper collaboration between brand and agency, a real partnership on product invention, creation and evolution is the future. To achieve this, agencies need to totally rethink, reengineer and reorganise their people, places and processes.

This shift in agency shape and structure will not take place over night, but the most ambitious in the industry have already made significant changes. The priority must be to determine a direction that works for the agency’s current culture, striving for something achievable and not a seismic shift. Looking at the landscape, client base and their aspirations are the very minimum to consider.

Business consultancy, service design and customer experience are the new battlegrounds, with everyone claiming to be an integrated communications specialist. As a result the buying decision for brand owners has never been more unclear or complicated.

In parallel, brands now need to engage, entertain, inspire and inform. The new IP is the brand itself. In response brands are taking back control of much of its most valuable asset. This move forces a further rethinking of the people, places and processes agencies need in places to remain relevant.

Agency boundaries as a result will become fluid. Traditional silos and walls will crumble, creating a blurring of the lines between product design, product development and product or brand marketing. We need a radical rethink of how agencies do business: they need to be more fluid to allow movement but just rigid enough to provide some form and structure.

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