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Agency of the future: everything must change

This content is produced by a member of The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

The agency of the future looks nothing like it does today, and for good reason.

The core aspects of a full-service agency – its culture, operating model, engagement model etc - will, and should, change.

Firstly, let’s start with capabilities. For a long time, agencies have prided themselves on being “creative-led”. This is very much the old way! Agencies must be insight-led…because great creative and great customer engagement for clients begins with insight. It’s why we here at Unlimited have created the Human Understanding Lab and reinvented our organisational model and work processes. It allows us to provide our clients with an insight-first strategy that gives a forensic approach to how customers are acting and reacting; real-time and long-term.

We use talent from our specialised team of experts such as neuroscientists, research practitioners, trend analysts, data scientists and behavioral scientists – all working together.

Secondly, operating models. Since the world continues to change at extreme rates, operating models have a massive opportunity to change. Workplaces used to be all about desk space and face-to-face communicating, but now we are living in a ‘virtual culture’ and the focus is on flexible spaces, collaboration and team-building. Offices will be more of a “pull model”, where people come for collaboration purposes. Communities will be split virtually and physically and the dedicated “we” vs “me” space will be flipped on its head.

Evolving culture

Thirdly, agency culture. For decades, our industry has been behind the curve (and I am being kind) when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) The agency of the future will need to better reflect the people it serves. Many issues have recently been put under the spotlight and for the right reasons (BLM, mental health). This has accelerated our efforts across D&I and most importantly for me, Belonging. Belonging is fundamental to everything we do and, for me, justifies urgent efforts to get it right.

Now, client engagement models. We’ve had some clients for 20+ years and it’s our job to inspire them to be at the forefront of change and to help them with new ways of thinking because brave clients need brave agencies and then good things happen.

Finally, the priority should be what we can do now to future-proof businesses and ensure our industry reflects everyday communities – acknowledging that people are individuals who cannot be categorised. If we do that, we can connect on better levels and inclusive cultures can thrive. Because it’s vital we don’t lose sight of the fact that everyone belongs.

Tim Hassett, CEO at Unlimited Group.

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