Hey Forrester, The Future of Agencies Should Include Evolution.

Earlier this month, Forrester Research analyst Sean Corcoran wrote an interesting post on where the future of agencies was heading. He reminisces on how big name agencies have practically been household names – agencies by the names of McCann Erickson, Young & Rubicam, J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy, and Saatchi & Saatchi and many others. But the question then becomes what can these agencies do to survive in the age of digital technology and online marketing? Before, as Corcoran puts it, there were a few channels that advertisers could push out information. That was before, however, the invention of the Internet. Now the online spectrum has taken over and has opened up a whole new can of worms for advertisers to worry about and the hole is pretty deep. Agencies are now sinking and some just don’t seem to know how to get out of it.  There are a couple of questions that Corcoran has raised that definitely hold merit, but I think that it beckons a different answer. Here are his thoughts:

  • Can one agency do it all?
  • Are holding companies the answer?
  • Can digital agencies compete with them and lead brands?
  • Do marketers rely on agencies like they used to?
  • Should marketers consolidate their agencies or de-centralize to dozens of agency partners?
  • Are technology providers and crowd sourcing legitimate threats?
  • Where is this all going?

Basically do agencies have a future?

Yes, I think that they do…as long as they evolve. Agencies have become rather complacent, in my point of view. Agencies have typically started to evolve but not as quickly as some would like. First you had the traditional advertising agencies – the ones that focused on print, television and radio. Maybe these agencies were a full-service shop as well so they had a branding and a public relations department. However, the thing is that they’re slow. Now we’re in the the age of Internet and long before agencies got into it, there were plenty of digital agencies that appeared to monopolize this niche. Soon all agencies started to provide website development, email marketing, banner design, and even some online advertising assistance. But then we get into social media and having it been around for the past couple of years doesn’t bode well for agencies. They’re going to need to be more adaptable and adjust quickly to the changing trends. Just because their clients don’t demand those services now doesn’t mean they shouldn’t investigate it and find out what is going on and how to get ahead of the curve. Luck favors the bold and if you’re going to be major influencer and an agency that brands want to work with, then it’s adviseable that you look at what’s happening and get ahead of it. Yes, the first one out the gate is probably the pioneer, will make mistakes and learn from it, but that often gives them crucial experience.

Yes, the basis for not getting into it seems pretty cliche at this point. There’s no demand so why do it? It’s because you can do something amazing and get ahead of the curve. Don’t be complacent. Just look at what Edelman is doing with Twitter right now: they’ve set up a database that will help Twitter users assess what they’re “influence” is in the social sphere. Is anyone asking for it right now? Is there a particular client asking for it? Agencies are so used to being part of the New York City life. You have the world-famous Madison Ave., but now with today’s technology, it’s no longer Madison Ave., but rather MadisonAve.com. All your business and notoriety will come from the Internet. Are you a part of it?

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently Flipboard's Assistant Managing Editor, overseeing news curation in technology, science, gaming and health. In addition to his day job, Ken's the co-host of "The Created Economy" podcast, examining the Creator Economy. In a past life, he was a former reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding.