Melissa Roberts, managing director of Huckleberry Agency says the gap between media and creative is closing, forming ‘Unified Agencies’.
It goes without saying that if you’re running a full-service agency, you’ll be speaking in favour of it, and if you’re in a creative or media business, your opinion will sway toward keeping them separate.
I’ll declare an interest as the head of a full-service agency, but also as someone who has been in the industry for over 20 years, working the world over in both advertising and media agencies. Seven years ago I joined what is now known as the Dentsu Aegis Network, back then led by the man who is widely regarded as the person who separated media and creative in the first place. Over the years I have seen strategic and implementation excellence in both types of agency but I have also seen too much brainpower spent solving the same problem twice over.
The first point to address in the ‘full service’ debate is that the industry needs to question whether the term ‘full-service’ truly captures what a combined advertising and media agency really offers today, there’s a fundamental issue in how we label it.
The gap between media and creative, particularly digital, is rapidly closing. Strategic insights and integrated communications strategies are driving this, often with technology as the glue. Programmatic buying is in its early stages, but that is also on its way to changing the face of the old media agency model. Put simply, the emergence of digital means the consumer is in the driver’s seat more than ever, and has confirmed the next evolution of the agency. Perhaps it is more fitting referring to this new structure as the ‘Unified Agency’ rather than full service.
Having spent the past six months at the helm of a newly established Unified Agency, I am in a good position to discuss the pros and cons of this structure and share what I think distinguishes us in the market.
Media is converging and so many campaigns these days are either digitally led or feature heavy investment in digital. A good digital campaign should really have a seamless connection between the media and the creative, and in most cases, should be developed simultaneously with context playing an increasing role in creative development. With media planners and buyers sitting cheek by jowl with creative and developers, the Unified Agency can do this.
A Unified Agency provides its clients with layered thinking and a broader insight into their briefs. With multiple disciplines, the Unified Agency can provide simultaneous, rather than sequential thinking and I believe some of the best campaigns are developed and executed in this way. Having bought, owned and earned assets under one roof means that comms planning takes priority over section planning and insights lead the results posed to clients.
Working with a Unified Agency affords a client many economies of scale. Marketers can produce a single brief and go to one place to have it answered. Time spent going to countless agency meetings can be replaced with an increased focus on strategy and a development of a far more trusted relationship with a team that is working in unison, rather than spending their time competing for their share (and sometimes more than their share) of the budget.
It also means that when things aren’t going swimmingly, there is ‘one throat to choke’ for the client, and a level of accountability that you can only get when your agency services are all found in one place. It puts an end to the age old debate over whether creative didn’t work or media didn’t work.
But there are a lot of things that need to be considered in forming a Unified Agency. We were fortunate to start with two equal and established agencies, meaning that we were not simply tacking a creative service onto a media agency, or vice versa. Having highly skilled media and digital creative people allowed us to hit the ground running, but adding a discipline to an established agency would need to consider many other factors.
The industry is changing so rapidly that there is no one formula that will suit all clients but from recent experience and considering the way things are going in the media and marketing industry, there’s a good argument for challenging convention and getting your team working in unison in the Unified Agency model.
Melissa Roberts is Managing Director of Huckleberry Agency (a Unified Agency)
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