The most future-friendly agency network is the networked agency. Perhaps this network could be called a soft network. It depicts a web of agencies who want to work (well) together, each bringing their expertise to a client or group of clients….or to a consumer community.
You’ll notice I didn’t say they all needed to be in the same group or belong to the same holding company. Like siblings, having the same parent doesn’t guarantee that the agencies get along or that they work well together.
When speaking with a group of client side marketers in London recently, I was struck by the number of different agencies each worked with. This was a reflection of a few things: increased specialization and the multiplication of marketing techniques/technology, a desire for best-in-class, the feeling – and dare I say it, the experience – that putting one’s eggs in the same basket diminished the service and the results.
The bottom line is that these marketers didn’t believe that the positive effects of integration – either internationally or across media/disciplines – were as compelling as ‘buying’ best in class.
Perhaps the right mix of expertise wasn’t available in one agency. Perhaps the client wanted to be in control. Perhaps the clients simply didn’t understand that 1+1+1+1= 10.
But whose fault is that?
I think that perhaps agencies haven’t really understood the value of integration themselves, above and beyond the patching together of disparate services. It’s always fun to ask an agency who touts integration – and they all do – for case studies. If they need to think about it for too long, or drag up an example from Australia, I think we can say they talk the talk, period.
Agencies haven’t inspired clients with an integration promise that begins to answer their concerns: How do you continue to innovate? How do you take advantage of new technologies? How do you help me prove that this is really the better way for my business (and not just the easiest)? What do you do when you don’t know how to do something? How can you work in a more open fashion?
Agencies need to be ‘open-source’ in their networking. And create an offer, a structure and measurement tools that help marketers recognize and capture value of integration without so much compromise.