What is the agency of the future going to look like?

Long-gone are the days when clients solicited the services of various agencies to get their creative work done for the same campaign. Silos of creative and strategic execution, and data are getting integrated into a new exciting marketing mish-mash. This ‘mish-mash’ is taking agencies away from the role of a vendor to that of a business consultancy. This means that the future award-winning agency isn’t going to be known just for being extremely creative; it’s going to be known for being extremely efficient and intelligent.

The core forces driving the agency industry, like many others, is data and technology. New platforms, interfaces, consumer behaviours and purchase habits are creating new touch points everyday for advertisers to interact with and learn from their customers. The magnitude of data being generated has opened up an entirely new parallel industry of ad-tech, which is being touted as the next major B2B startup battle field. But even inside the periphery, bigger companies are merging business operations with marketing using technology – the Big 4 are gradually adding Social Media management to their service catalogue, which makes complete sense given their pre-existing expertise in Data and business. All they really need to do now is acquire the right creative talent. Agencies, on the other hand, are working to improve their understanding and implementation of data without diluting creativity.

Synapses are slowly starting to form between IT and the agency model. A case in point is IBM’s ‘The Next Rembrandt’ campaign which used a motley of futuristic technologies such as facial recognition, predictive data modeling to create a projection of what Rembrandt’s final painting would have looked like had he lived a bit longer. The beauty of a campaign like this is the inability to clearly decipher which aspect of the campaign deserved an award – the idea or the technology? This is probably amongst the first in a line of many more such mind-boggling campaigns erasing the lines between technology and creativity.

But while technology and data add a whole new dimension to marketing and business as a whole, they also add just that much more complexity. Add to this the fact that the number of mandates is falling, smaller agencies are sprouting and the bigger agencies are mass acqui-hiring – technology is making functional integration difficult. It’s like trying to contain a never-ending explosion; always in addendum.

This is the time when the fundamentals of the agency model are overhauled and a fresh and receptive outlook is adopted. Agencies must constantly grapple with the new to keep up, even if it means becoming something else. Creative talent will always be at the center of our processes but what will keep changing is how the talent is utilised.