Adapting the agency model

Nov 2019 · Design Strategy

So what does this mean for the industry? We take take a look.

Agencies such as Oliver and U-studio have already been running a different model to that of the traditional design agency. Oliver say: ‘Whilst all other agencies sit apart from clients, we build dedicated agencies inside our clients’ worlds. We do this because we can be more effective inside’.

This approach has seen good results, with their client roster including BMW, Unilever, Google and Samsung. Their relationship with Unilever is one of particular interest. In 2016 Unilever set up their own in-house creative agency ‘U-studio’. U-Studio operates a hybrid model, with the majority of its staff hired from in-house agency experts Oliver. Giles Morrison, global vice president of brand communications and global brand says of U-studio:

‘What it is built to do is be a quick, cost effective digital advertising and content agency, and a lot of that we’re trying to achieve in real-time.’*. This model of being integrated with an agency as well as in-sourcing your staff is an interesting one and allows both the speed and speciality of creative execution required to cater to some of Unilever’s 400 brands.

The cause of this shift in agency model has been driven by the demands of clients. While the importance of quality creative and brand presence continues to be paramount the increase in the number of platforms and iterations for personalisation seems to be directionally proportional. Agencies have to deliver a production line of quality creative, the likes of which the industry has never seen before. TSB Chief Marketing Officer Peter Markey says:

“Keeping in tune with a client’s changing needs means adopting the mindset of a management consultancy, identifying client needs, providing solutions to fix problems and specialist skills where needed.” Producing such a breadth of content requires much tighter control over a brand, requiring agencies to have a much broader understanding of the client’s wider business goals, ultimately having to advise on approach and delivery.”

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word “agency” is defined as “a business that provides a service to other people or organisations.” There has always been a wide range of models for interpreting this. At Studiomade for example, we have always filled more of a consultancy role for our clients, this is where we believe our value to be, offering insight and guidance to help resolve a commercial challenge. We always ask the driving questions behind a problem to ensure that a meaningful result is delivered, no matter the output.

As a business, our move towards this model has been a result of both client needs and our own experience growth in identifying opportunities and solutions at a strategic level. In a climate where delivering impact and measuring a return on investment is vital, we believe that the agency model must alter.

So what does the future of an agency look like? In an increasingly competitive and digital landscape, there’s no doubt that there is a large opportunity for clever, inspiring agencies to exist. As Elmwood identify, “It’s no longer good enough to be the best of the best, you have to be the only ones who do what you do.”*

It remains to be seen if all agencies have the ability to pivot if they are to deliver strategy and insight to the level required by the market. Only time will tell if the rest of the industry can break the mould.

  • https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/superpowers-need-join-elmwood/1580991
  • https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/brands-need-digital-partners-not-agencies-survive-challenges/1590165
  • https://www.marketingweek.com/unilever-ustudio-content-agency/

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