Will 2019 be the year the agency model finally gets updated?

Talent, ad agency reframed

In the December issue of Marketing Week Sarah Vizard talked about how big brands are beginning to wonder what value is really being delivered for the mega bucks they pay – recognition is leading them to take content creation in house, in-source and cherry pick cross agency groups in providing “the full service”. Sarah noted that big agencies are responding by looking at business models that span disciplines, streamline and cost cut.

It’s interesting that the pictures painted of a 21st century (21C) update are not very exciting, creative or breathtaking, are they? It feels more like creative accounting than creative business modelling. And then we wonder why clients no longer feel the value of the “creative industries”.

So what might a 21C update really look like?

For me it’s all about agencies reclaiming their ground and to do this they need to attract back the talent – by understanding what will make talent see an “agency” as the best place to “be” as many of us used to.

Agencies must put the “glamour” back in – and today, the glamour means something different to what it might have meant three decades ago.  It means offering a unique combination of a rewarding career (Millennials want purpose over paychecks) with rewarding ways of working that allow the necessary head and heart space to be supremely and uniquely creative in adding value for clients. In this way clients will see “agencies” as uniquely useful and necessary once again and understand that they have to go the agency route to access the pool.

In support of this point, it may surprise you to read the 2018 mental health and creativity report by Tank (Australia) which asked employees about mental health in the creative industry:

Only 50% of 400 respondents answered ‘Yes’ to the question “Are you ok?”. 60% of these said they were aged 20-29 when they first realised that work was impacting their mental health.

The single word that appeared most amongst responses was Fear – with reasons for stress being given as “working late and weekends worrying they’re not good enough, seeing others not coping, the threat of redundancy, being berated and feeling watched all the time, senior leader egoism, inadequate content/time/understanding for what it takes to do our job properly.”

So why would the brightest talent want to enter an industry where that is the case?

Accepting that margin is important to shareholders and that it is unrealistic to persuade the industry en masse that Social Business (like ours) is the way to go for everyone, by thinking differently you can still make an agency magnetic.

Our agency for example decided to champion virtual networked working – we don’t have a shopfront in the traditional sense and we don’t need all the fluff that goes with it – by cutting out the commute, enabling people to work flexibly and not to be so brutally torn between their work and life commitments we provide the time and space to be creative. We deliver cost savings that make margins easier to manage and of course deliver positively against bigger issues like gender inequality, ageism and even the potential threat of a diminishing skills pool in the light of the maybe, one day Brexit.

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