Do Agencies Actually Do Work Anymore?

Sep 10, 2013

You’re probably thinking that this is another post bashing the big agency model and questioning the value they provide to clients – and you are right if you’re thinking that.

It’s not that there isn’t value in a big agency. I mean, after all, they have OFFICES where you do, right? Of the marketing P’s, big agencies provide great Place. They are also amazing at Promotion, as evidenced by the many awards that each industry hands out quarterly to the highest bidder, err, biggest advertiser, err, “winner” in said publication or organization’s membership.

Seriously, though… It is difficult to believe but is sadly true that marketers forget about — or choose to ignore — Product and Price when they choose an agency.

In a virtual world where distance learning, cloud-based storage and these wacky doo hickeys called phones and webcams exist it sounds crazy when I promise you that all of the world’s super talented people don’t all live in Brooklyn. In fact, a lot of folks like myself get burned out, figure out their true passion, learn, and build something that not only is better than where they’ve been but also love what they do.

But I digress.

It’s truly a perplexing conundrum for brands – do you stick with a failed big agency model that keeps getting bigger, or do you take the leap of faith that a small, creative agency can deliver the same $350 an hour thinking you’re currently paying for?

Here’s a valid and reasonable question to ponder: Aside from billed hours for calls, account “coordination” and outsourcing of all of the actual work, what is your agency actually doing for you? Think about that one for a minute. While you do, I’ll give you an anecdotal story…

We recently picked up a project in which we’re not only doing all of the social media and digital work for a brand, but are also showing a global company that in a DIY environment we can also sign a celebrity, shoot professional video, buy ads, hold an event, do their PR and build their apps. In addition to having an amazing team that actually creates things, our clients roll up their sleeves and gets their hands dirty.

Profound, right?

It’s called “work”. Not just billing hours, not endless meetings, and not propagating a broken model of excess, bloat and quite frankly one where your agency is your project manager and admin but outsources every piece of actual work.

If you think I’m joking look at the big players in the space and ask them if they are personally supplying the talent in house or if they’ve outsourced the heavy lifting; chances are they’ve “partnered” (read as: “send work to but don’t have the expertise on staff”) with a company in a country where the work can be done cheaper. And by cheaper, I mean at a rate lower than the $325, $200 and $150 an hour you’re paying their SVP, Account Supervisor and Senior Account Executive. Honestly those are all redundant titles, but again I digress.

Even worse, there are actually awards for outsourcing this work. “Well, we DID pay the SMT company/Facebook/ ad network a premium for those impressions!” is quite possibly the saddest thing one could hear, next to “We just retained ____ holding company!”

Let’s get real, folks – the big agency model is beyond broken. The recent mega ad holding company merger shows they’re scared because they understand that they’re unable to provide any value beyond scale. The Facebooks and Twitters of the world are able to usurp their junior staff who barely get a few hours a month of training on the latest changes to these platforms and the senior folks who are really superb at client management, cracking the whip to ensure agendas go out and new business. The unfortunate thing is that while businesses are tightening budgets and demanding ROI, these big agencies are bulking up, like the military for a war on a terrorist nation that simply doesn’t exist.

The reality is that small, smart, — and yes — senior agencies are providing the value clients NEED — not the same bloated model that doesn’t actually produce a real product for any actual value.

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1 Comment. Leave new

Good post, Dave. And so true. One need just follow the path of the big box firms. Following the 1980s and ’90s movement toward consolidation (read: bigger agencies, worse service), the trend now — in light of open innovation, crowdsourcing and advances in communication — is the demise of the megafirms. “Much like newspapers, conventional advertising agencies are becoming irrelevant.” – HRB, May 9, 2013

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