The agency is Dead! Long live the agency! Mike | September 19th, 2011

This week I will be speaking at Ad:tech London with our friend John Winsor, the CEO of Victors and Spoils. We will be discussing the future of the agency, the current business climate, crowdsourcing and the new models for delivering creative in the post-agency world.

Among other questions, we will be discussing the economic impact of the new models (who benefits, who gets hurt, and who cares?); the institutional aversion to change in the agency model: client resistance to the new models and how companies like V&S are helping to break that down; small business economics and access to great creative via the crowd; small agencies and how they can compete effectively in the new models; and new media models, information democracy, and the DIY economy.

While the ad industry continues to grow, this is a time of dynamic change: the rise of digital capabilities and smaller agencies built specifically around these are posing a great challenge to the traditional incumbents. For instance, Ogilvy & Mather has been in business for almost 7 decades and employs over 16,000 people in 125 countries. Victors and Spoils has one tiny little office in Boulder, Colorado and a tiny staff, but are leveraging the global creative crowd to service clients like Dish Network and Harley Davidson. Can a slow-moving behemoth like Ogilvy compete effectively against nimble newcomers a fraction of its size? Can great ideas come from places other than the traditional agency? There has been lots of discussion on this general theme and many have been writing about it for the past few years; I wanted to share a few great posts on the topic and get the juices flowing prior to Ad:tech!

Mike Carlton: The Nimble Agency “It wasn’t so long ago that when someone wanted to learn about an agency the first question asked would be, ‘What are their billings?’ The underlying issue was, ‘How big are they?'”

Edward Boches: Five things ad agencies have to get good at “Ad agencies are really good at certain things. They’re masters of simplifying and focusing. They’re great at creating – or better yet revealing – a brand’s story. They know how to get attention.

John Winsor: “The Future of Advertising” The question for creative agencies is whether they can wake up, react to what’s going on, engage the crowd, and make themselves a part of the new reality.

David Armano: Agency Ecosystems “I started to think about how experience design fits into the bigger picture within the agency setting”Image: crowdSPRING

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  • Traymon2

    The rise of the mediocre, cheap and talentless has “KILLED THE AGENCY.”

    The great equalizer—the computer—has reliminated skill, experience and professsionalism from the design equation.

    Anyone and everyone is a design/marketing genius.

    Preposterous…thank you for contributing to the downward spiral of what was once was a great and rewarding career.

  • Info

    I agree crowdsourcing is devaluing the industry and sending out bad impressions of the design industry to clients, who are mislead by lower prices. Working directly with clients and building relationships were the designer can work more closely with them, is much more effective and enables better direction for the client.

  • Where’s your talent?

    The talented creatives still work in agencies or as freelancers where they can earn income for their talents – not on crowdsource sites where they’re competing with 500 other people for a $200 award. 

  • John77056

    agreed. the agency model is being destroyed by crowdsourcing. designers can make anything look slick with photoshop and illustrator and the vast majority of buyers are unsophisticated about design and therefore, since it is “shiney” and 3D, easily believe they are getting a bargain. and designers foolishly accept $200 for their efforts, if they win. I challenge designers to keep time records and at the end of the month total up all time spent on all designs submitted and divide that by the total winnings that month to determine how well you’re doing in this experiment. are you making enough money to pay all your expenses: rent, car, gas,  healthcare, utilities, food, entertainment, etc., etc. add it up.

  • Anonymous

    @Where’s your talent? I would respectfully disagree. crowdSPRING has over 100,000 registered creatives from almost 200 countries around the world. Many of these folks DO work for agencies as employees or freelancers and still love to compete here. In addition, agencies do not have a monopoly on talent as a browse through our users portfolios will show; there is a global pool of talent out there and the internet provides opportunity that far exceeds the opportunities available through agency work. 

  • Anonymous

    @Traymon2 and @Info: This argument has been made many many times before, and is frankly uninteresting and weak. Crowdsourcing has made high quality design available to  tens of thousands of new buyers of creative services. These are buyers who used to go to logo-mills, use cheap templates, or simply did it themselves. 
    You are correct when you talk about the value that comes from a one-to-one working relationship between buyers and creatives, but frankly not every buyer and not every business needs that level of service. Welcome to the  new world – compete on the value you provide and the talent you have instead of whining incessantly about how you have been ‘devalued.’

  • Anonymous

    @JOHN77056: It is not at all embarrassing to the many designers who choose to work for fees that you might choose not to. Please don’t judge others because they see value where you don’t. There is no rule that anyone has to participate in a model like ours – we’re not for everyone, but clearly with 100,000+ registered creatives we are fine for many.

  • Anonymous

    @JOHN77056: It is not crowdsourcing that is killing agencies, it is their old-world model, exorbitant fees, calcified bureaucracies, and slow reaction to the rise of the digital model. Interestingly the agencies are among the businesses who are leveraging crowdsourcing as they start the slow process of evolution. Get ready for the future!

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