How to Create a Modern Agency for the New Year

Five Ways to Re-engineer Your Agency So You Are Ready for 2016

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What is a modern agency? Digital vs. analog? Speed-to-market?

The definition seems to be evolving in recent months. We're a 52-year-old agency that hasn't created a print ad in a long time. Does that make us modern? Nah, it's more of an attitude.

Listen to clients today and you will hear a new message. They need their agencies to pick up the pace, to be more accountable for results, to break down internal agency barriers and pull together cross-agency expertise without being asked. They want agencies to anticipate customer behavior and bring solutions; they expect you to spend their funds like it's coming out of your pockets.

Some of this is new information; some of it has been sought for decades. But the difference today is that clients mean it more than ever, and agencies have the tools and technology to pull it off.

Here are five ways to make sure your agency is a modern agency as we prepare for 2016:

1. New mindset: The days of having six weeks to concept for a campaign are over. While process and structure are still important, timetables are not what they used to be. That's because companies need to move faster and pivot to respond to market conditions -- the need for agility comes down from the CEO to the CMO to the agency partner. Agency leaders who are open to change get it; those who remain entrenched with the old ways of doing things, well ...

2. Gitter done: The new agency attitude will be easier for small- to mid-size shops to adopt than for the globals. Part of what we need to do is create a structure/staffing model that enables work to move through the shop faster. It's one thing to have the right mindset -- quite another to have a successful infrastructure to make it happen. Hire talented people who get it, and can move work out the door quicker.

I believe there are two kinds of scenarios where this can happen: campaign work -- when you're coming up with the big idea -- will take time to properly come to life (still, not six weeks); then the tactical execution of the campaign concept must move at a faster pace. Or we can ignore this and clients will continue to build their in-house creative services teams, who will take the agency's concept and execute the tactics on their own.

3. Social responsibility: If you're managing social media for various brands, you have a responsibility to be "on call" like a doctor. Things happen fast, brands can be tarnished by anonymous or angry individuals' comments or reviews, and you need to have a team that is poised to address this 24/7. Sorry, it comes with the territory.

4. Be your own procurement: Like any business, agencies have been forced to squeeze greater efficiencies and do more for less. And while it's encouraging to see Pepsi take procurement out of the agency hiring process, the new agency still needs to staff client work differently. For example, does a project need three creative teams, or just one? How much of your staff needs to be full-time and how much can be part of your steady freelance team? This allows you to manage your overhead smarter and pass along savings to your client.

5. Don't just say "partner" -- be one: Agencies and clients often talk about being partners, but how often do they behave that way? The new agency needs to anticipate its clients' needs and bring ideas without being asked. Maybe even some finished work -- like a video for social media that you were able to execute nimbly, and present it to your client. It won't cost you a lot, but I promise you your client will be grateful for the proactive effort, and likely buy the work from you.

Today, more than ever, it's all about doing work at the speed of business. What's your speed?

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