In the 10 years that I’ve been running my agency, one thing that has been truly constant is the pace of change. We have seen the rise of web 2.0, eCommerce, eCRM, the birth of social media and its rapid rise to mainstream media status, the growth of user-generated content and now it’s all about mobile, the semantic web and big data!
One thought that has always been nagging me or perhaps driving me is that both my grandfathers and my father owned and ran successful businesses in industries that no longer exist due to technical innovation. So how do ensure our survival? How do we make sure that we have an industry to pass onto our offspring?
Keeping up with the pace of change
We have seen a steady evolution over the past 20 years as the media landscape has changed – gone are the days of SP, DM, advertising and digital definitions. However, this change is accelerating. Even newish specialisms such as social media seem to be already outdated.
The pace of digital change is exemplified by the adoption of iPad - the fastest ever adoption curve. Apple sold 67 Million in the first quarter this year; it took two years to sell that many iPhones and six years to sell that many iPods. This and the rapid take up of smartphones are fuelling the always-on, ever-connected savvy consumer.
Agencies of the future
So what will the agency of the future resemble? Well, despite the plethora of new and old media opportunities (whether bought, owned or earned as we now have to label them), it will still ultimately be about engaging and influencing our core audience to act in some memorable way.
The growing challenge will be to try to do this in an efficient and measurable way. And I think this will continue to be the key opportunity area for agencies. We should all consider guiding our clients by advising them on the best ways to act, bringing together experience from multiple sectors and then creating ideas that get cut-through and hence drive results.
There has been a movement for clients to drive via in-house – especially eCRM, email and social media – hence we have to continually prove our worth. Part of this is to keep pace and to get ahead of the technological change but more importantly, to be able to advise our clients on the commercial applications of this technology.
Much is made of great modern brands that have been created without agencies – Google, Amazon, eBay, Facebook etc – all built through word-of-mouth and user experience. However, they have all employed agencies to help them build their commercialisation, drive higher revenues and extend their reach beyond the initial points of the growth curve.
The next denomination of agency services
So, perhaps here’s another opportunity especially for those of us who, under the old division of labour, were considered to be below the line; those who understand the “big” data opportunities, know how to tame it, use it, exploit it, create ideas from it and deliver relevant, timely, personalised communications in real time.
I hope that this will become the 21st Century denomination of services – those who want to own the data vs those who want to own the pure idea (big or otherwise).
To make all this happen, in this increasingly frenetic world, we’re going to have to become true business partners with our clients. We need to understand their business models as well as develop long-term relationships.
This also means that we’re going to have to change the way we remunerate ourselves. We seem to have backed ourselves into a corner with hourly rates, offering up easy comparisons for procurement. We need to develop transparent cost-plus models with performance-related fees according to what we actually deliver. This will indeed enhance trust and partnership behaviour.
While I believe that we still will have a business in years to come, the exciting part is that it is going to be different. Faster paced, more measurable and digital, greater data and opportunities for our ideas!
By DMA guest blogger Gavin Wheeler, member of the DMA Agencies Council and CEO of WDWP