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Agencies: Commoditized?

Originally published

February 24, 2021

Written by

The dynamic of the last couple decades, with traditional agencies and holding companies scooping up digital specialists like someone spilled a bag of peanut M&M’s, reflects more than the typical growth trajectory of successful boutiques.

There’s a newer need for large agencies to demonstrate competency not just in digital channels but in the marketing technologies that increasingly undergird the entire advertising ecosystem. You need to bring the cool TikTok idea, but you also need to promise efficiency through ad tech and big data.

Agencies are at a crossroads. One path leads to commoditization, price wars, utilization pressure leading to internal burnout, and a vortex of email exchanges with clients’ procurement teams. Nobody wants that.

The other path represents a fresh take on the fundamentals. Agencies that win will be the ones selling ideas, not advertising. Ideas that start with emotion, and end with valuable experiences. Ideas inspired by data but not dictated by it. Ideas substantiated by digitally-grounded insight, not enslaved by walled-garden metrics.

I firmly disbelieve technology has forced agencies into a race to the bottom. I think it’s the opposite--technology will help creativity flourish, at least for the teams who can read between the bytes.

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