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The Future of Advertising Part 2: The Agency of the Future

More input from the recent New York advertising conference (see last blog entry for Part One)…

The most interesting panel I observed at the BMO Thought Leaders Conference was titled “The Agency of the Future”.  CEO’s from large agencies around the country – many of them divisions of the big public agencies – layed out their vision of how advertising agencies will begin to look in the very near future.  A few bullet points from the discussion:

  • Accountability in advertising will continue to be the mantra.
  • To this end, there will be an increased push towards “media-led creative”, allowing actual response rates to dictate creative approach as opposed to the much more difficult to measure “brand hunch”.  (Actually, they didn’t say “brand hunch”, it is a cute term I just made up, but you get the idea.)
  • This will neccessitate a change in the typical creative structure, that now usually includes a creative and art director and perhaps a writer, to include an analyst that will interpret advertising results to be implemented into creative.
  • Tracking technologies will increase (see next point).

After this discussion, the next panel was called “The Race for The Digital Media Hub”, which in many ways was an extension to the “agency of the future” discussion.  Participants in this panel, many from digital agencies, discussed how the agency of the future will have a centralized tracking system that will be used to optimize all media channels.  As part of this process, and as mentioned in the earlier panel, this would involve greater interaction between creative and media, and really a fundamental shift in how agencies manage business.  The interactive-based crowd embraced this idea, but I suspect getting brand agencies to warmly greet the concept would be a little more difficult. The panelists also all agreed that performance-based media buying will become much more common, and is already common in almost every digital agency.

All this was facinating, but also a bit surreal, as the panel members seemed unaware that the agency structure and the “agency of the future” as they described already exists.  They are called Direct Response Agencies, and the good ones are media-centered and have sophisticated tracking systems to manage advertising based on performance.  Essentially everything the panelists thought would happen sometime in the future already happens right now, they just don’t seem to know it.

I felt like I worked for Toyota and was attending a conference called “the car of the future” in which participants described the “magical hybrid auto that someday will run on gas and electricity” while being totally oblivious to something called a Prius.

Ah, but I guess I should not take it personally.  Direct response agencies seldom gets the respect they deserve, but I have a feeling that is all turning around.  It feels good to be an “agency of the future” as opposed to one clinging to the past.

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