The future of advertising agency integration

The rate of innovation within the digital and interactive realms is currently outpacing the rate at which industries are evolving. With these new technologies come new media, new services, and new revenue models – all of which are impacting how people are interacting with media, the environment and each other. So how are advertising agencies adapting to the rapidly changing environment? This was the topic of discussion for a packed room of digital, traditional, and PR agencies alike as we all humbly tried to suggest solutions.

The discussion was moderated by Pete Lerma of Click Here, an interactive agency within The Richards Group. Before we opened up to discussion, Pete outlined three basic models that current advertising agencies use to deal with the clients’ demands for digital solutions to their business problems:

Generalist Model: Traditional agencies convince clients they can do digital when they can’t. They then use current talent to create watered down digital solutions. The advantages are that the message is consistent and there is one point of contact.

One agency, two distinct groups: This model requires both a traditional as well as an interactive group working under the same umbrella. Business is shared, and the two groups work together seamlessly.

Multiple agencies: This model uses one traditional agency and niche digital agencies are outsourced according to needs. Usually the client or holding company will decide how the partners are chosen. The biggest disadvantage is territory battles that typically arise.

Although these models are great to study, that’s about all they are good for. The needs of clients to meet the demands of innovation don’t require a model; they simply require great work. So, the model doesn’t matter. What matters is the mindset of your employees.

Those who think they are traditional will become obsolete unless they begin to innovate their thinking to meet the changes around them. The future advertising model is the exact same thing as it is today. But instead of holding talent proficient in traditional, the model will hold talent that can do it all.

Inherently though, this futurist projection has its challenges. Some projects in interactive agencies require teams of 20+ programmers alone. Can agencies really sustain a workforce of that many developers that may lay idle for half of the year? Not now they can’t. So they are forced to outsource talent and in so doing begin to run into the expected culture, ownership and creative hurdles. Maybe the solution is that production now has to program as well as everything else? I certainly don’t have the answers.

One thing is for certain though: Unless ‘traditional’ agencies embrace the skill set necessary to compete in the evolving market, then the digital-only agencies will easily begin to implement more traditional elements to their campaigns. When that happens, the traditional agency will just be a model to study, and the digital agency will quickly and quietly slip into their former place at the top.

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