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Six new roles integrated agencies need to play to support clients

George Butler examines how a shift back to centralised offerings calls for a holistic approach

It’s no secret marketing is going through a prolonged period of transformation. Agencies are struggling to reinvent and restructure themselves to keep pace with the increasingly commoditised demands of client teams and CMOs under pressure.

15 years ago, the rise of specialist agencies was driven largely by the impact of digital. A new set of rules came into play along with a requirement for agencies to embrace new channels and consumer behaviours, assimilate new skillsets and ditch their reliance on tried and tested marketing orthodoxies.

This resulted in the fragmentation of larger networks into a loose alliance of complementary disciplines and specialist services. Shopper marketing, social, content mobile and beyond were all housed in one building but driven by separate P&L structures. It was a somewhat flawed model, but it delivered practical and operational benefits for global marketing departments and their de-centralised stakeholders across multiple countries.

With the shift in the industry from ‘digital marketing’ to marketing for a digital world, the pendulum seems to be swinging back towards the re-bundling of services, especially for larger agencies.

This might be the case, but with a more informed, holistic, connected approach. If they can figure this out, integrated agencies should have a happy and healthy future. 

New competition from traditional consultancies repositioning themselves as an agency is a significant threat, but over the long term which client is going to hand over the end-to-end management of their business to one supplier? 

Integrated agencies need to work with consultancies more and more, as things connect up. There’s a tension between cohabiting as ‘ecosystem partners’ while also competing against each other. For integrated agencies to maintain ownership of the creative partnership, they need to learn to take on new roles.

1. The data geek 

Integrated agencies should be the ones to help clients interpret their data. While it’s easy to be persuaded to invest in the latest data gizmo, data compiling must start with creative intent. 

2. The innovator 

Play with technology to solve business problems and then share them with your clients.

3. The collaborator 

You can’t offer and deliver everything to your clients. Stronger, more resilient integrated agencies have built an established, non-partisan ecosystem of suppliers and specialists to collaborate with in order to deliver bespoke solutions.

4. The competitor 

Competition is no longer chessboard-style tactical plays.  Learn about, standardise and offer the products and services your clients regularly want from your suppliers.

5. The partner 

Take risks with clients and share in the equity. New strategic, creative alliances need to be understood and grabbed. 

6. The creative architect

Yes, ideas are central to what we do and have the power to change things. The last word should always go to ideas.

The B2B Marketing UK Agencies Benchmarking Report 2019

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The B2B Marketing UK Agencies Benchmarking Report 2019