What Will Agencies Look Like in 2015?

Viewpoint: Three Predictions for the Future Agency Model

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Al DiGuido
Al DiGuido
To say the world of advertising is in flux is a colossal understatement. Call this new reality what you will -- a sea change, a paradigm shift -- it's leaving marketers and agencies alike scratching their heads about the future ad landscape. We are seeing digital shops taking the helm as agency of record for big brands, while agencies organized around legacy media, analog technologies and confining organizational structures are trying to keep pace.

At the same time, many digital shops are realizing their limitations as marketers seek more than just technology chops. They still want big, creative ideas that can be applied across a variety of channels.

What will agencies look like a few years from now? Here's where I'm placing my bets.

1. Lean Agencies With New Titles

Smaller media and production fees along with thinner margins will translate into a much leaner model, with the best and brightest often not exceeding 100 heads. In this era of immediacy, small size will be a market advantage, enabling teams to act faster, be more flexible and work more collaboratively.

Beyond their shrinking size, agencies will feel shifts in power and priorities. Creative directors or programmers will be overshadowed by experts at the top of their game in all aspects of the new-media world -- from strategy and channel expertise to campaign execution, analytics and beyond. Today's job titles will no longer be the same. The convergence expert, or "chief choreographer" -- that person able to orchestrate customer experience strategy across the growing range of channels and media -- will quickly rise to C-level status.

2. Analytics Will Decorate the Trophy Mantles

The awards and accolades agencies now spend so much time and money chasing after make nice lobby liners, but they will matter less to agencies and their clients over time. Results and ROI will be the only measures of success. In such an environment, he who controls the data (and has the expertise to understand, analyze and garner actionable insight from it) will rule.

Data will dominate all agency activity -- real-time messaging, real-time results and analysis. The day will come in which planners won't plan without understanding the metrics of success. Creative teams won't create without understanding the relationship between execution, engagement and return. In the agency of the future, analysis will drive strategy, not vice versa.

3. Technology Will No Longer Be "Leased"

As the ultimate enabler in the new digital age, technology will no longer play a tangential role. Outsourcing technologies, from e-mail and search-marketing platforms to social media and mobile solutions, will not be enough. Whether it's at a creative, media, direct or interactive shop, owning vs. leasing technology will ensure revenue and stabilize profit, as the alternative -- partnering with third-party vendors -- dilutes margins from day one. And it will be an absolute necessity from a customer-experience standpoint. Because proprietary technology will be a major differentiator, the agencies with the best developers will be the new leaders.

Al DiGuido is CEO of Zeta Interactive.
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