Agency Model of the Future? Keep an Eye on Media Guys

Iva Pollard From London

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There has been a debate over here about the shape of the agency of the future. A spate of new agencies has sided with "putting media back in the mix" by employing communications people and blending them in. And some of the old agencies have gone back to the future and reclaimed the very people they were happy to see leave 15 years ago -- the media folk.
Ivan Pollard is a partner at Naked Communications, London, a communications-strategy shop with offices in six countries.
Ivan Pollard is a partner at Naked Communications, London, a communications-strategy shop with offices in six countries.

So is full-service going to make a prodigal return?

Probably not. At least not in the way it used to be articulated. The skills and dynamics of buying media preclude any return to the previous model. Buying will remain a specialized discipline.

Major advertisers still need aggressive buyers, but the big media over here are changing the game. New deals are no longer adversarial, no longer about competing over price. They are about partnerships. Trades between organizations that encompass airtime, space, content, distribution and alternate revenue streams are becoming more common. In this context, competitive price becomes secondary to collaborative partnership.
Secondly, on the planning side, it has long been held over here that those with a vested interest in buying might not offer the best advice for a client regarding what exactly to buy. It is the same as asking a fishmonger what to have for dinner. Can you really expect him to suggest anything other than fish? Bringing the communications thinking back inside the creative-communications process is a no-brainer.

An interesting spin on this was given by Sir Martin Sorrell at a conference in London last week. He believes new technologies are driving change in the supply side of this industry, that traditional agencies are struggling to adapt to the speed of change and that the more interesting evolution will come from the media agencies and web agencies. Could this be a hint that, instead of the creative agencies reclaiming the communications thinking the communication agencies will claim the creative thinking and execution? That would be interesting -- and not beyond the realm of credibility. In fact, there are probably "media" agencies doing that right now in London.

Media agencies offering full service -- now there's a thought.
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