The news a couple of weeks back, that DraftFCB has lost their SC Johnson business after fifty-eight years prompted a pretty damning commentary from Campaign that Thursday in which Claire Beale condemned Interpublic’s promise to deliver “the agency of the future” with their amalgamation of Draft and FCB as a damp squib.  But do Interpublic even have the components to create the agency of the future.  Come to think of it, what does the agency of the future look like anyway?

If you’ve been watching this space you’ll have heard me point out many times that the single most important difference between a successful business and an unsuccessful one is efficiency.  You’ll also know that the world has moved on from the times when an unsuccessful business could still chug along (I’ve seen plenty of walking dead over the years).  These days you are either ticking like a Swiss watch or you are dead.  That’s the new economy for you. You don’t even get points for being efficient in some areas of your business if you are inefficient in others – you are only as strong as your weakest link.

When it comes to marketing, efficiency is more than just tackling all the issues that influence the success of your business or learning to use a wider range of tools and disciplines.  It’s about eliminating inconsistencies between different messages, campaign elements or between strategic and tactical facets of your Campaign and taking full advantage of the synergy afforded by imaginative combinations of elements of your marketing initiatives.  Synergy and consistency have always been the major benefits of integrated marketing. The only thing that has changed is that these things are no longer merely nice to have, but essential.

On it’s simplest level efficiency is doing the things that deliver the greatest benefit and avoiding those further down the effectiveness table.  Long gone are the days when advertising people could hide behind our inability to measure the effectiveness of much of what they did.  In the digital age we can and must measure the effect of anything.

And therein lies the formula for the agency of the future.  In fact, forget the future, today’s agency has to be able to deliver an integrated solution (and that means integrated marketing, not just the integrated communications that everyone seems to think is the real thing) with data collection and analysis built into every element.

For an agency to pull this off is no small feat.  Firstly it means bringing together a diversity of expertise that very few marketing services firms anywhere in the world can muster.  Then there’s the question of culture clashes.  The people and culture of a data management consultancy is the antithesis of a creative agency as those who have sought to combine the two have discovered.  I worked with Experian a few years ago to help them create a hybrid consulting model that I called Optimarketing, but it never really gained traction because of the issues associated with sitting hundreds of data specialists and analysts who insisted in a silent working environment and who lacked creative instincts in the same space as gregarious, creative advertising people and expecting them to work together.  However, Experian were ahead of the game in recognising that this the way to go, closely followed by Sapient, who adopted the strategy of acquiring creative instinct rather than trying to grow it at home, by buying Chris Clarke’s Nitro group.  While I’ve not seen evidence of a quantifiable model emerging from this marriage, there are others playing with the same idea.  One of the more exciting new partnerships being Harte-Hanks who have taken in the UK agency Mason Zimbler, themselves already accustomed to the digital world that might just provide the cultural bridge to the numbers people.

As a company looking for a marketing services provider you’ll need either extremely broad skills and experience in your marketing team and at least one person with the overview to coordinate numerous specialist suppliers or an agency that can deliver the full package.  As my readers will have detected from my earlier piece on the dumbing down of marketing, I believe the problem is that people with the expertise to fill the modern-day coordinating (or Marketing Director) role are as rare as hen’s teeth, so in the absence of a one-stop shop, I’m hoping folks like me and the Full Effect Company will come into our own.

Michael Weaver
August 16, 2011

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