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The Future of Agencies Isn’t What You Would Expect: The Changing Agency, Today. BY Keith Mackay

When we think about the future and the future of agencies, it’s always discussed as some far off possibility, something we need to prepare for in the long-term; we rarely talk about the immediate need for evolution, what we need to do now.

The future of agencies is less about actually preparing for the future, but making changes today in the way we work and how we deliver results for our clients. Most of the advertising industry is grappling with the idea of full-service shops versus unbundled, more focused agencies; when in reality it does not matter where we sit or what the agency focus is because this isn’t going to help us overcome the key issues we’re facing.

What we really need to prepare for the future is alignment, both internally and externally to break down barriers and silos, to acknowledge where we lack the capabilities and find partners who compliment us. Our number one job is to solve challenges for clients, regardless of how it’s done. The real problem is that people feel like they need to own something to contribute and make a difference. This notion of ownership, where we hold everything close to the chest, is hindering our ability to make breakthroughs and solve our client’s problems. The idea that I need to own a project and no one else can see it or collaborate limits everyone’s success.

Collaboration is the heartbeat of Blue 449, the idea of working with one another—or with those outside our walls—excites, motivates and drives us. This is the reality of today’s landscape, media and technology will continue to evolve and true collaboration will become more important than ever.

For Blue 449 the ideals of collaboration go hand in hand with our Open Source methodology. Typically, when an agency or business seeks to expand by adding new capabilities they either build internally or buy the capability by acquiring others. Too often, the desire to own and build scope blinds us to the reality that the job might be better suited elsewhere. In addition, it slows our ability to react and in today’s world, speed is everything.

This open source methodology proposes a third solution that looks past the blind spots, and rather than bring the new capability in house, we partner with others who have the capability we seek. We share knowledge and work as a team across boundaries. To succeed as an agency of the future we need to acknowledge our limitations in order to understand where we lack and seek opportunities for partnership.

While agencies need to be agile, nimble, respectful and self-aware of their limitations, they also need to be bold enough to seek out the right solutions and partners who can support the needs of clients in more cohesive and imaginative ways.

It’s not just agencies that need change now. Clients need to evolve as well by breaking down the silos that exist within and looking at new ways of working with agencies and holding companies in the spirit of collaboration. Often, the KPIs within an organization are counterintuitive to true success. When every team has its own KPI and separate agendas, collaboration is hindered because despite having the same overall goal, the steps to get there look different for every team. If we create harmonious KPIs, organizations are more capable of overcoming those uber challenges.

To create a more harmonious experience we start all client conversations at Blue 449 with the ABCs. We discuss the client’s ambitions; this stretch goal (often one to three years out) allows us to see every campaign in regards to its long-term impact on the ambition. The ambition becomes our own ambition. We then identify the barriers that might hinder achievement of our unified ambition. Depending upon your function within a broader team, barriers can vary but the need to overcome them helps focus the job that needs to be done. Finally, using the knowledge of the ambition and its barriers, we can see the overall challenge were facing and the role we need to take on to break down the barriers. From there we take action to achieve the ambition. Sadly, these thoughts aren’t often unified causing unnecessary friction in both agency and client culture.

The simplest thing an agency can do to prepare for today’s future is to embrace these three principles:

1.   Adopt a nimble and agile model for all relationships to allow both client and agency to expand their ability to solve problems

2.  Embrace a collaborative spirit in everything you do, to understand that, as we say at Blue 449, “none of us is as good as all of us.” Fuel your team with new perspectives and come together to achieve the overarching, shared ambition.

3.  Embrace and operationalize on the idea of a learning agenda. This should become robust test and learn approach with a budget set aside to fund learning. As an agency, we’re always seeking out the latest and greatest for our clients, if our teams are given the ability to test and learn new technologies from various partners, they can then bring new ideas to clients as appropriate to bring us closer to achieving the ambition.


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