July 23, 2008 - Comments Off on Time for a new agency model?

Time for a new agency model?

Hi all and welcome to the Bloom Media blog! I’ve invited all the team here to post and would welcome our peers and clients to also share their thoughts on all things digital and beyond. I thought i’d get stuck right in… hope this sparks some interest.

I’ve been working in digital for 10 years now and have watched this industry grow and mature with pleasure. At first communicating the opportunity digital presented to senior decision makers was always an uphill struggle but over time this has eased and every year we are lucky enough to take an ever larger share of our clients marketing spend. So you’d all think I’d be happy right? So did I, but actually I’ve found myself getting ever more frustrated.

Whilst things have moved on from ‘why do I need a website?’ still all too often we (digital agencies) are treated as a bolt-on side strategy, measured solely on our own capacity to generate ROI. This is plainly the wrong way to go about it..

I think if a client wishes to truly seize the opportunity of digital then they must be prepared for change.. change to their marketing strategy, change to their media evaluation and measurement, change to their back office systems, changes to their sales strategy but most difficult for them to accept is often the requirement for change to their organisational structure. The customer journey from initial brand exposure, to contact to conversion has been changed forever by digital and at every stage in the process, in this brave new world the customer controls the brand, the best the corporation can hope for is influence!

I think the problem we face is a consequence of the fact that our industry is still young and consequently there is a gulf in understanding this between the maturing leaders of digital agencies (such as myself) who are now experienced enough to understand business, and the leaders of our clients’ organisations who cut their teeth in business in a totally different age. The big opportunities for agencies like us are therefore restricted to companies that have managed to bridge this gap themselves and embrace the change (and there are some) or where we can find a way of overcoming these hurdles.. the only obvious solution being appointment to a decision making role within the clients management team (not that easy to get agreement to).

We find ourselves increasingly looking for new ways in which to approach clients to try to drive this change within their organisation and often that means looking beyond the fee based model to payment on results/commission based structures linked to a win-win. Essentially this is a cock-on-the-block gesture from us to the client to show them we really believe in what we are pitching, and this is what it takes to convince them we are worth listening to. If they engage with this approach then we have a platform for a true partnership and can insist on measures such as board/senior exec representation.

Reading what I have written, it makes me envy the situation the old skool advertising and marketing agencies are in, but I guess once upon a time it was the same for the ‘ad men’. I can’t help but think this would be easier for us if we were coming in as part of the overall marketing plan rather than the afterthought or parallel strategy. It’s time to stop thinking in terms of media silo’s and start thinking in terms of customer journeys across many media (search being just one of these), integrated strategy, integrated measurement. Clients are starting to stop thinking in these silo based terms and are looking for this joined-up thinking.. call it full service or whatever you like but either through partnerships or groups of companies or single ‘full service’ agencies I really think it’s the future.

I’m not sure I have fully evolved this thought yet but its convinced me to re-attend this year’s ‘New Agency Models 08’ master class run by Centaur(marketing week etc).

So if you are reading this and you are a client, or an agency I’d love to hear your thoughts.. does this scare you? Excite you? Can you envisage a relationship which isn’t just based on day rate but mutual reward?

Alex Craven

MD – Bloom Media