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Are agencies prepared for the next 10 years ?

Posted 31 March 2015 11:00 AM by John Rich

This was the topic we explored at the Digiday Agency Summit held March 1–3 in New Orleans. Yet it quickly became apparent that the real question is, “Are agencies prepared for the next 10 months?” 

The challenges ahead are significant — from an average staff (most agencies’ only true asset) turnover rate of 30% and the continuing encroachment of some of the world’s largest and most powerful technology companies to the fact that less than half of all online video ads (a marketing mainstay in this ever-evolving digital age) ads are viewable. 

In an attempt to address these and related issues, the summit’s presentations and work sessions focused on approaches and investments in three main areas:

  1. Agency culture and talent
  2. Innovation and technology
  3. Client relationships and platform partnerships

From an independent full-service ad shop with 35 team members to an integrated global agency network with over 3,000 employees, each attendee’s proposed solutions were as varied as the organizations they represented. Here are just a few of the points that were brought up:

  • You can’t have a strong culture without first defining a strong purpose for your organization, and more than one agency talked of doing less better.
  • Traditional career tracks no longer work for many employees (particularly younger workers), and an organizational structure that allows them to fluidly move between different disciplines is critical to growing and retaining talent.
  • To stay relevant, agencies need to take a page from the tech industry and move beyond concepting and into coding, hacking and prototyping to bring their ideas to life.

A particularly interesting part of the conference was vendor “speed dating.” This involved 10, 10-minute meetings where vendors offered up ideas for addressing some of the most pressing issues agencies face — from branded content creation to ad viewability, measurement and more. Although it was refreshing to get a different take on these challenges, agencies can’t expect outside vendors to resolve core issues like culture, talent, innovation and compensation. To address these concerns, agencies will need to do the hard work themselves. Along those lines: Look for our upcoming post where we’ll outline our five recommendations for agencies to future-enable themselves for the next 10 months to 10 years.

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