Reading some older tweets from various cohorts and I was presented with a question that we in the industry ponder from time-to-time. What's the future advertising agency model going to look like? There's the thoughts of hybrid agencies, part interactive and part traditional. There's the communal multi-agency model that shares ideas and delegates production responsibilities (and you think you're dysfunctional now!). Then there's the wacky "it's all going to web" guys. Who might be right in ten years, but even at the speed of technology it's a maturation that will still take time.
It's clear to me now as much as it was when I participated in Audi's "The Art of the Heist" campaign, the future agency model is matrix of like minded "Idea labs" and cutting edge producers. Not so long ago, interactively we were all scrambling to do everything just like traditional agencies. Design, development, content, SEO, online media placement, tracking and aggressive optimization. I think that what smaller, leaner, humbler shops recognized is that you do what you do best and partner up with others that do what they do best. This sounds so simple I know. But take a look at heist, it was a star-studded affair with McKinney as the agency, GMD Studios and Haxan Films doing creative execution, rock-star ARG/Story writers like Jim Gunshanan and graphics and flash by shops like Juicy Temples. All this great talent all working in concert everyday. The thing about increasing the 'storytelling' value of campaigns these days is they take honest, humble teams that are willing to do working confidently together.
Some other thoughts from around the sandbox:
"Well, I think there will always be these one-stop behemoths that do it all, and they will do some of it well and some of it poorly and certain brands will want that ease. Then there will be a large number of specialty agencies -- smart and nimble and focused on doing what they do best and collaborating with others to build something larger. The really innovative marketers will put these teams together and do amazing things. Strategy from Undercurrent, then get Campfire to creatively ideate and execute against that strategy, with those two organizations working together. Because they compliment, rather than compete.Both organizations in that scenario are nimble and move at the speed of the current times they don't have to turn around a massive ship. Brand managers can use the groups they need to solve the problems they have."
So do you think the onus is going to be on a savvier client looking for that kind of synergy or agencies pitching that kind of relationship? And is there a weakness in not being a one man behemoth?
"Yes, I think it requires savvier clients who are willing to go the extra distance to make everything they do a success, verses taking the easier path where you might get great TV Spots and print, but flat and ho hum digital. I think the smartest clients will eventually go project based. If you want to do something technologically groundbreaking, go to people who can do that, don't expect your big agency to figure that out. If you want to really engage people with brand stories, don't go to people who brilliantly distill brands into 30 seconds, go to storytellers, etc. Everyone has a role, everyone has a specialty, and everyone respects what everyone brings to the table. Oh, and Unicorns are real." Mike Manello (Co-Founder & Creative Director, Campfire)
"I think the future agency is more of a non-solution specific service. It will employ a guerilla approach that focuses on a specific clients needs and sources different resources cleverly. Instead of finding the right website or brochure, a future agency may higher a group of high-school kids to hit the streets or partner with non traditional companies to market goods or services. The future is to think completely outside all shapes rather than just some old box." Ralph Miolla (CEO – Fuel Media Group)
"The ad agency of the future looks more like publishing consulting with the collapse of much of the content world, the traditional line between editorial and advertising is collapsing as well ... sometimes in wonderful ways, sometimes in horrible ways. Ad agencies of the future are going to be helping their clients navigate those waters." Brian Clark (CEO – GMD Studios)
"Also I would say that in addition to expanding and contracting, it is less fixed in geography. Basically i dont see agencies really existing in the same fixed space forever as things move more and more onto the internet agencies are going to have to hire more and more people who are suspicious of a traditional advertising model." David Kraftsow (Interactive Demigod)