Do Agencies Need to be All Things to all People?

5 min read


The 1980’s, when ultravox was number one in the charts, Cher still had most of her original body parts and fluorescent was the new black. It was a time when you felt naked without half a can of hairspray on your head and a ghetto blaster on your shoulder. It was also the time of the full-service agency. A one-stop-shop for clients to have all of their marketing and advertising needs fulfilled. Of course, in those days there were really only ever three needs: TV ads, radio ads and newspaper ads. Then the evil internet came along and supposedly, ruined things for us all.

At first, it all seemed fairly simple. Forward thinking companies set up a nice little website telling anyone who used the web a little bit about their business. But then the internet got popular and businesses realised they had to compete to attract people to their website. Pretty soon afterwards came social platforms, the mobile internet, online consumer engagement and the omnichannel. For the average Joe out on the street, this is all great stuff but for businesses having to communicate across multiple channels, and for full-service agencies having to create and deliver it  this seismic shift in how businesses connect with consumers has caused an immense amount of stress and hardship.  

Over the last twenty-five years, technology has moved faster than agencies can cope. In the beginning, agencies made valiant efforts to try and maintain their promise to deliver a full-service in-house. But, as the number of advertising mediums grew and the technologies became ever more complex – reality set in. Having every skill-set under one roof was, financially, not a good strategy. A far better one was to cut the margins on a project and outsource the work to a specialist agency. Someone who could do it better and faster than you, enabling you to focus on what was important – maintaining that all-important relationship with the end-client. And for many agencies, that’s where the story ends. But is it really a good solution? Today’s so-called “full-service” agencies can end up having relationships with 5, 10 … even 20 smaller, specialist agencies. It can take a team of people alone, just to manage these inter-agency relationships.

connected web

There’s more complications too. The lead agency might have a great idea for a project, but each specialist agency will have their own ideas on how to interpret a client brief, often to showcase their technology / specialism above the rest. Then there’s the silo mentality of creative thinking and communication between agencies. All of this begs the question…who is ultimately responsible for the creative delivery of the project and most importantly, who is responsible for its success? A full service agency might be quick to point the finger at one of its counterparts when a project goes wrong or hits delays, but ultimately the client relationship lies with them and not the agency’s partners. As far as the client is concerned, they’ve chosen a full-service agency because they want a full service with a single point of contact and invoicing.

Procter & Gamble’s Global Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard offered a blunt message to a conference room full of agencies in 2016 when he said “Frankly, your complexity should not be our problem, so we want you to make that complexity invisible.”  To simplify  how that project gets built and delivered behind the scenes is not the client’s concern and that’s become a bugbear on both sides of the client-agency relationship.

So what’s the solution? If agencies aren’t able to offer all things in-house, does that mean the golden age of the full-service agency is gone forever? Should clients instead focus on finding specialist agencies themselves and cut out the full-service agency entirely? After all, surely their role will slowly morph into nothing more than a “middle-man”… a pedlar and project manager of other agency’s specialist services. And if that is the case, where does it all end? The demands of communicating with consumers and the technologies associated with them are only going to get greater and more complex as time goes on. The reality is that whilst there will always be a need for niche agencies, what clients want, in particular – what large clients want and will always want is a full service agency. The benefits of a single channel of communication and single point of invoicing are too powerful to ignore and that means agencies, have to do better at delivering this service to clients. 


Havas Village is a great example of a new school of thinking and we’re seeing a growing band of agency collectives, all working together to deliver a better, fuller service to their clients.  Of course, at the heart of this lies communication and the ability to break down the silo mentality between specialisms. To do this really well requires the formation of temporary, virtual agencies – a collection of specialisms pulled from a range of agency partners with the sole aim of delivering a quality campaign for the end client.

And that’s where we come in. Screendragon is a leading cloud-based project, resource and workflow management solution. It’s perfect for complex, high-performing agency and marketing teams. We help our customers create new ways to increase collaboration, productivity and compliance while decreasing silos, duplication of efforts and costs. Want to know more? Contact us today to arrange a demo.

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