Are Agencies Doomed or Agents of Change?

By Martin Recke

08/09/2009 | Wayne Arnold who set up marketing agency Profero in 1998 has a nice piece in AdAge about the present and future of agencies. That's a topic of interest for everyone who works for such a beast (like me).

Wayne cites Nicholas Negroponte, former chair of MIT's Media Lab (who will give a keynote speech at PICNIC two weeks from now). Ten years ago, Nicholas stated that any company that describes itself as an "agency" is doomed. Wayne agrees and proposes agencies to become what he calls agents of change. To Wayne, this means looking at "business issues".

So far, so good. Things are getting interesting when he gets to the point (emphasis added):

"The most significant difference between the ideas that transformed businesses in the past and those that will in the future is digital -- the biggest single agent of change today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Why? Because digital is fundamentally bringing companies' core values and products closer to their consumers in both positive and negative ways like never before.

Agents of change embrace the digital revolution. Ours is not the first industry to get turned inside out -- the transformation of the music business being one of the most significant and well documented -- but out of adversity comes opportunity. Digital impacts everything, from sales and marketing to distribution to customer service, and I believe it's the biggest single lever agencies can use to create business changing ideas and regain credibility as creative business partners.

We talk to clients about how they should change their structures, align with their value, fulfill their promises -- even change their premises. And we tell them they have to change how they think about communications and media, too.

And that's what's so exciting at the moment. The world is turning upside down, creating amazing opportunities for those nimble enough or those who have the vision to change. These companies will go back to being creative business partners to clients once again."