The Future of Agencies: What Do You Think?

We’re in the process of pondering a very important question in the industry today: what is the future of agencies? Agencies have played such a crucial role in helping companies market their products and services for more than a century. Names like McCann Erickson, Young & Rubicam, J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy, and Saatchi & Saatchi (among others) are practically household names. There’s even a massively popular and critically acclaimed television show capturing life in the golden age of legendary agencies on Madison Avenue.

Yet the agency model was built during a time when there were only a handful of channels in which they could push one way messages en masse. Does that model still work in a time when nearly a quarter of online US adults now create content online? Many more questions begin to arise as we open Pandora’s Box: 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?

To conduct this research we’re speaking with some of the most influential agencies, marketers, and service providers. However, what better way to get a feel for the pulse of the industry than to crowd source it? So we’re reaching out to get your take on the space. Please give us your thoughts in the comments section on the question: What is the future of agencies?

We’re looking forward to your input (and please try to keep it to one or two paragraphs)! Since this research is a collaborative report across roles, this post is cross-posted on the Interactive Marketing, Direct Marketing, and Marketing Leadership team blogs.



re: The Future of Agencies: What Do You Think?

I think most agencies will be out of business within 5 years. Their economic model has been built around old media buys and related agency fees. Those economic models are going out of business. But it is extremely hard for an entrenched industry to cannibalize the model that has made them.The world of internet marketing is quickly cutting the agency model out. Google doesn't pay agency fees. And I think this is less about an unwillingness on the part of Google and other internet marketing innovators to let agencies into the future, and more a reflection of agencies inability to get in step with the future. Simply put, if the channel won't line up with the future, then you just go direct. Overwhelmingly, that's what is happening with the emerging internet marketing innovators.

re: The Future of Agencies: What Do You Think?

There are so many different types of agencies, that it's hard to answer a broad question of what's their future. Media buys are one thing, and agencies will have a supporting role. But if you're talking about agencies helping with creating online experiences, you'd be hard pressed to find any compelling products out there created by agencies. Glossy websites are still their main focus. Everything cutting edge and innovative was usually conceived, created, and managed by an engineer looking to solve a problem. The agencies usually come in to piggy back on the online marketing piece. And with more ways to self-market through social media and customer intimacy, it's less clear how agencies can help without understanding the entire business.