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How to reskin, repurpose and restitch the agency model through technology

How to reskin, repurpose and restitch the agency model through technology
Alex Dunsdon, Co-Founder of The Bakery London, explores why agencies need to keep an open mind on technology if they want to flourish

The Agency model sucks, right? Here's something you can do about it.

The status quo currently is being paid by Clients for time not outcomes – "Here, have £30k a month to do whatever I say and I'm not going to incentivise you to make it good".

The comedown is a drain of talent, a glut of pitches and a general hand-to-mouth existence that makes any attempts at innovation really, really tough.

So far, so moan. But imagine if this was opportunity. Something we could actually do something about.

Here's a way. Start. Let's just start.

The State of Marketing Right Now

1. In a world of abundance product and service experiences beat comms

Or more accurately, comms is necessary but insufficient.

Saying things isn't enough in a world where we trust what a total stranger tells us on a product review over what a brand tells us in an ad.

A world where people like Unilever believe in "scope not scale". Where outspending the competition on communications is less important than creating a broad range of products and services that help make people's lives better - help them find you, choose you, and be loyal to you.

So far so obvious. "Marketing as a service", "Make stuff people want > Make people want stuff". "What you do > what you say" etc etc.

This is not new or revelatory. What is interesting is how Agencies respond to this...

... "We can build that".

And this is the bit we believe is most broken. A world where stuff is built to order. A lump payment up front. Make from scratch and leave to fester unused and unloved by customers once it has been built and the money has run out.

The problem with “building to order”

This is rarely good enough in a world of abundance. Because you know what, there is someone who has already built a product that solves the same problem better, cheaper and quicker.

And this is all they do. It's their life. They've tested it with customers already. And they keep making it better. Every. Single. Day.

Why this matters

This is no fad. We're in the midst of two sustainable, long term, macro trends:

1. Software is Eating the World

Everyone should read this article

The contention is that technology is so ubiquitous and the barriers to entry so low that there is a huge and growing supply of great tech companies. And this is no bubble, but part of a long term, sustained economic shift where software does more of the jobs humans do.

It's happened in music, it's happened in photography, it's happened in video. We're nuts, if we don't think this is happening in marketing.

2. Open innovation

The best talent is not in your building. It can't be. Not even in Google. Someone somewhere is making something great that you can't or aren't. And it's an accelerating trend. The 'people are leaving big institutions "to do what they love”' thing.

It amounts to this in simple economic terms: there is more supply to meet the demand of Clients. People have already built what they need. And its better, cheaper and quicker than what they can get from Agencies.

A new model for Agencies: Find don't build

So Agencies should be scared right?

Wrong. We see only opportunity. Embracing the trend and making money from it. Getting access to new business problems, incremental service fees to take products to market as well as the ability to 'cut in' on the license fee and make money while they sleep.

Like taking the computer re-seller model to the Agency world. A world where everyone wins.

It's already happened

Agencies like Havas, Vizeum, Manning Gottlieb and MBA have already done it – taken the best tech solutions to market with Clients such as Unilever, BMW, Panasonic and Heinz.

So now there are products in the world that are great and keep improving. Like a virtual assistant that helps customers choose the right product in store or a social gifting product that enables people to gift their mates a round when they can't make it to the pub.

The Diversification Adaptathon

So this was the context for the IPA Adaptathon in the first week of February. Ian Priest's drive to diversify Agency models.

20 Agencies
12 of the best innovative tech companies
1 simple provocation:

What if we respond differently to the same Client problems by asking a simple question: "What existing technology could deliver against our Client's problem and what role can we play taking that technology to market?"

So we got to it and answered live Client problems with existing tech products and services. Like this

The Agencies got excited about getting access to new problems higher up the business stack, great case studies for new business and a new revenue model.

We then broke down the barriers to make it happen. It basically came down to individual will - who is up for it.

Feedback included, "That was the best IPA event EVER" and "I didn't know we could do this. My brain is fried".

Interesting, huh?

A world where Agencies don't build from scratch but reskin, repurpose and restitch something that already exists.

Come join... Clients want this.

Alex Dunsdon is the Co-Founder of The Bakery London. Follow him on Twitter @alexdunsdon

Last updated 20/02/2014

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