Back to the Future Agency

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BART CLEVELAND: My partner, Steve McKee, passed an article on to me about the “agency of the future.” The writer, who hailed from a large agency, shared the dramatic changes that are soon to become commonplace in our industry. We laughed together as I read this prognosticator’s vision because much of it described things our agency is doing today. Does this mean we don’t exist yet?

Steve made an observation about why the article appeared a bit behind the times. Large agencies are silos of expertise and floors of departments. What seems revolutionary in a place like that is common in a little agency like ours. For example, the article writer’s first observation was that the agency-of-the-future would be infused with cross-departmental thinking. No longer will art directors and copywriters be considered the only ones that can be responsible for a creative concept. When you’re our size there isn’t any room for departmentalization. It would be like departmentalizing a sardine can. So when the creative teams are concepting in their little corner they’re only sitting a few feet from the account and media people who can’t help but overhear. We not only welcome them to add their thoughts, they are required to do so. Assembly lines are for building cars, not ads.

Another prediction of the agency-of-the-future was that it would be restructured to benefit the brand, not the bottom line. Duh. Any agency that is only about the bottom line isn’t around to see the future.

The writer also predicts that the agency-of-the-future will be media agnostic. Granted, this is not the way agencies have operated in the past, but the term “media agnosticism” is already getting long in the tooth. It’s really just another way of saying that you’re media neutral, which is even longer in the tooth. It will be a part of the agency of the future but it has existed for quite a while.

Final prediction: the agency-of-the-future will be open to exploring, but grounded in testing. I guess this is new because of the “openness to exploring” part because the testing part has a long and illustrative history in advertising.

We do test creative a couple of ways at our agency. We call it market research. Before we start spending the client’s money developing ideas we find out what needs to be said, how it needs to be said and to whom. If you accurately discover those things and you have even nominal talent you can’t help but do effective work. The second test we do is to run the ad in the real world. If it works it’s a good ad.

So, I can’t really agree with the writer’s vision of future agencies because much of the vision already exists while other parts are detrimental to great work. You may disagree with me. That’s okay. That’s why we have a comment section. Just keep clean.
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