February 10, 2009

What If We're All Wrong

Everybody agrees that the advertising industry is in the crapper. Everybody agrees it has to change. But nobody seems to have a vision of where it has to go.

There are two prevailing visions of the future for ad agencies.

First is the "everything digital" vision. We've all read about this a thousand times: advertising is dead...conversations...communities...engagement, blah, blah, blah.

Second is the "everything creative" vision (espoused by yours truly here.). This vision proposes that the only unique benefit agencies provide is the creative one, and that everything else is available elsewhere.

Both of these hypotheses focus on the creative aspects of the agency business as the linchpin of the future.

But what if both of these visions are completely wrong? What if the future is not nearly this sexy, but is really mundane and frightening? What if the real future for agencies is to morph into client marketing departments? Follow my logic here.
1. Marketing departments are expensive.

2. The amazing disappearing economy is going to put enormous pressure on client companies to reduce costs.

3. Which makes marketing departments vulnerable.

4. There is tremendous duplication between what marketing departments do and ad agency account service departments do. Every account manager will be happy to tell you that mostly what she does is her client's job.

5. There are, likewise, enormous quantities of time and money wasted in meetings, presentations, unnecessary re-dos, and un-dos between agency and client marketing people before advertising reaches the real decision makers.

6. There are plenty of examples (trade associations, franchise co-ops) of clients who have minimal or no marketing staffs and do just fine with the agency handling the marketing chores.
What if the agency of the future is not at all what we think it's going to be, but instead is a company that does both the marketing chores and advertising for clients?

It's practical and it makes economic sense for both sides.

Is this just a nightmare? Is it possible?

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