Over the past few months I've been working with the smart folk at Econsultancy on a project (in partnership with Adobe) to better understand the impact of digital technologies on agencies. A big reason for doing this is that, inspite of there being much chatter in the blogosphere on the future of agencies and the agency model, there seems to be a paucity of good research on how agencies are adapting to the many challenges brought by the rapidly changing communications environment.
As part of the research I interviewed a broad range of the great and the good from agencies across Europe covering many different types of agency including full-service creative, media, integrated, digital, and those that are more marketing technology focused (and incorporating the views of a number of well-known and respected voices in the advertising and media blogosphere). Importantly I think, the interviews also covered a broad range of job roles including agency CTOs, CEOs, Strategy and Planning, specialists, Heads of Innovation. The output is a 59 page report that looks at evolving agency behaviours and models, use of technology, differentiation and value creation.
As a key part of this, and in response to the feedback from participants in the research, I've developed a model for agency maturity in four key areas: data, technology, skills and culture. The overarching themes of this model are pulled together in a framework that references the progression of economic value model derived from Gilmore and Pine's The Experience Economy (a HT to Richard Sedley for pointing me at it). Reapplying this to the context of agency maturity in approach to (and the use of) technology provides a useful framework for understanding the progression of agency value over time and the shift from delivering services, towards staging experiences, and eventually to guiding transformations for clients.
There are many themes that sit around this model, a number of which echo areas I've talked about here previously (agility of-course, structures characterised by small and nimble teams, the explosion of devices, touchpoints and data, the shift from one-way, campaign-driven mindsets to developing more participative experiences and longer-term platforms, the growing importance of earned and owned media assets). I look at what this means for the important stuff like how agencies work, the relationship they have with their clients, how they create value and differentiate themselves.
You may recall that towards the end of 2011, I did a big piece of research on client-side digital structures and resourcing (again for Econsultancy) which itself was a complex but fascinating project. So in many ways this is a companion piece to that, but focused purely on agency side. The common strand that runs throughout both pieces of research is the scale of change and transformation, and challenge but also opportunity, that was revealed on all sides.