In the Future Clients Will Become Agencies (and Vice-Versa)

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When Microsoft announced its $6 billion deal for aQuantive, I was truly fascinated. More than anything, this deal validated what has been happening throughout our industry in recent years: the blurring of lines between client and agency. (Full disclosure: Microsoft is a client of Brownstein Group.)

Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
Think about it. Agencies are creating consumer products and selling them. They're developing product line extensions for their clients, while retaining the intellectual property rights. They're creating joint ventures with clients for branded products (like Crispin's video game for Burger King), and sharing in the revenues. At the same time, clients are buying or becoming agencies, and becoming creative types, branding purveyors and content providers overnight.

Will agencies increasingly rely on marketing their own products for their client base? Will clients rely less on outside shops to handle their marketing? Will both sides lose perspective and their edge over time? Who knows!? Thing is, right now, huge changes are taking place in the agency business, and it's a wild ride.

Looking ahead, agencies should broaden their appeal to become as much content providers as idea generators. With the explosion of cable channels, websites, satellite radio and niche publications, content is running thin. Why couldn't agencies specialize in generating it? We could create more shows (like the Geico Caveman spinoff), inspire more channels, capture eyeballs on sites with compelling content and publish magazines. Why not leverage our strategic planners, copywriters and art directors?

The days of agencies relying solely on creating ads for TV, radio, print and outdoor are so over. Just ask any client.

As for client companies, they are frustrated with slow-moving agencies who sound amazing in pitches, and are never quite as sexy as on that first date. So they're buying agencies themselves, and will run them like they run their companies. Whether the client-owned agencies lose their objectivity remains to be seen. But it's one sure way to ensure your brand receives best practices, lowest media rates and a steady flow of work.

It's all pretty exciting stuff. In fact, I can't wait to see the career path from copywriter to CEO suite at a Fortune 100 company. Revenge of the creative types!
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