Alternative agency models for the frustrated Marketing Director


Just to put my mind to rest, and after the 1000th time of questioning whether we should have the word “agency” in our business name, I decided to search the phrase “the agency model is dead”. 98,500,000 results were returned with the first page of articles seemingly confirming the statement, so I guess we can safely say, the industry is in agreement, at least with itself. But we don’t feel dead, and we don’t really feel like an agency. What do the people who buy our services think? It’s perhaps in this middle-earth, where the challenge facing a lot of marketing directors lies…

The Frankenstein model

Without a dedicated agency, marketing directors and brand owners often end up farming out work to a multitude of freelancers or smaller outfits creating a frankenstein agency of their own. What impact does that have on brands themselves? Are 3rd party suppliers talking to each other and do they all “get it” if they are not working under the same roof, even if it’s a virtual one? And how much time is being spent managing those relationships, briefing and re-briefing, rather than creating work that works? It takes a lot of energy to onboard new partners and entrust them with your brand. Organisations are plowing resources into in-house brand and marketing teams more than ever before, reducing the need for retained external agencies or the frankenstein alternative. The time has at last arrived for the CMO; no one outside of your own business should know your brand better than you.

The Avengers Assemble version

Frankenstein aside, bringing expertise in from the outside, remains a smart thing to do.  Too much navel gazing can be dangerous whatever industry you’re in, (did you notice a lot of the 98 million articles written about the death of agency are by agency people themselves?!). Although the old agency model may be a thing of the past, clients will always prefer streamlined processes and a trusted set of hands to ensure their brand is developed and communicated in the right way. Brand owners should not have to lose access to senior creative communications support when the business requires it.  A small team of people that get to know your brand and audiences really well, that you can call upon when it’s necessary. That have areas of expertise that compliment rather than replicate your own. An Avengers Assemble model rather than a limb of Frankenstein.  Working with your team, fitting in seamlessly when there’s a challenge to be tackled, then going back to the lab (cough, shed/desk/kitchen table) to ensure we’re sharpening our skills for the next time. Strategic and creative support from all or one of a team of experts — not all the time, but when you need it most.

Jason Fox