Are Marketing Agencies Becoming Obsolete?

Hedge funds are shorting with the world's top advertisers, and WPP shares have dropped 10% this year. This has created a curious tension in the current agency landscape, as there is a large mismatch between client needs and what agencies are working on, and this gap appears to be widening. Having established a marketing strategy and educated your clients' marketing team on how to manage execution, S4 Capital has been in a wave of agency takeovers, merging Taco Bell's culture agency Cashmere with Media. A Forbes article titled The Future Of Agency Models pointed out that in many agencies today, there are whole levels of people whose job is essentially to sit and wait to approve or disapprove of someone else's work.

Marketing and communication experts who no longer want to be part of the traditional agency approach tend to lean towards a distributed model because it is more flexible and gives them more control over their working hours. Small and medium-sized agencies are far from large ones, and the reports change less for a social media agency with a staff of 20 people, or a multicultural agency known for working with Latina influencers, as they continue to attract the same type of customers who are looking for the solutions they offer. Even today, when I talk to a room full of marketing and communication students, I am excited about the importance of the agency experience. IBM is buying boutique creative stores, while Google, YouTube and Vice have chosen niche marketing agencies specializing in everything from branded content to influencer marketing.

Many of us in the fields of marketing and communication disciplines grew up in agencies with beautiful and creative offices, collaborative spaces, beautiful views, elegant conference rooms, professional development sessions, happy hours and softball teams. Marketing and PR agencies have been notoriously late to the party when it comes to technology and investing in their own innovation. Not only have I heard this perspective from experienced agency people I know; I've also started to see some of this change firsthand in my own agency (although, admittedly, I haven't been in business long). I've been with an agency for a long time and, from my point of view, the trend is towards more one-off project-based jobs rather than the old “registration agency” job where everything is done on an ongoing basis.

Whether it's due to lost advertising revenue or an inability to predict how marketing is evolving, many agencies don't offer the latest social media methods for their customers. So is it time to say goodbye to traditional marketing agencies? It's hard to say for sure. But what is certain is that the industry is changing rapidly and agencies need to adapt if they want to stay relevant.

Jeanine Bottcher
Jeanine Bottcher

Freelance web fanatic. Award-winning social media guru. Hardcore social media nerd. Extreme twitter fan. Amateur music expert. Incurable travel evangelist.

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