Heather Whaling, (2011) Mashable, http://mashable.com/2011/07/21/digital-agency-evolution/, July 21 2011
The Modern Media Agency Series is supported by IDG. The smartphone is quickly overtaking the cellphone and tablet use is growing. Those statistics were found from the 14,000 that participated in the IDG Global survey . To view the worldwide survey with slides, click here.
Social media has fundamentally changed the way agencies work. In a recent interview with Mashable, Razorfish’s Grant Owens predicted that agencies will become much smaller — hiring more generalists and less specialists.
As the technology and client expectations continue to advance, agencies — PR, marketing, media and advertising — will continue to evolve. Will companies become leaner or will they need to staff up? What does that mean for campaign costs and hiring trends? We asked three people from different types of agencies to offer their viewpoints:
Though we’re already working harder, longer and faster, some experts predict agencies will become leaner because companies will hire people who can execute multiple aspects of a campaign. Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?
Rachel Kay: A decade ago agencies were much more focused in their service offerings, so wearing multiple hats within an organization was a lot less common. As PR people, we created the communication, the creative agency did the artwork and the media buying agency handled the ad buy. Today, agencies are finding it’s more lucrative to own as much of a campaign as possible, and having talent who can take ideas through fruition is definitely more coveted. In addition, there’s a lot more grey area in terms of where things like social media content development reside. It’s really up for grabs if your agency has the talent to execute. So, I’d argue that brands are becoming leaner in terms of resources, while agencies are actually expanding the breadth of their service offerings.
Todd Defren: I see little evidence of this concept. While it’s true that we’re working longer/harder/faster, the number of people required to execute across varied campaigns has only grown. Quite honestly, the more success a company has in social media, the more ambitious they become and the higher the expectation from consumers. Thus, we see demands for more community managers, more writers, more producers, etc.
David Griner: Personally, I think this is a golden age for mid-sized agencies, which were said to be dying just a few short years ago. Agencies like ours have never had the luxury of abundant staffing, so we’ve had to focus on assembling a team big enough to manage all our client work, but cross-talented enough to leave plenty of room for growth. But larger shops could definitely shed some weight as “specialized” fields like social media marketing become standard marketing practices.
If agencies do become more streamlined, what does this mean for campaign costs? Will brands be able to capitalize on an economy of scale because teams will consist of a few people who can “do it all” instead of having a larger group of people with specialized skill-sets?
“Today, agencies are finding it’s more lucrative to own as much of a campaign as possible.”
Rachel Kay: In this new landscape, brands and companies are able to enjoy reduced campaign costs because agencies are able to offer more in terms of skill. For example, we are a PR agency, but we’ve run significant Facebook advertising campaigns for our clients that we can fold into an affordable retainer that complements our existing communication efforts. That way, our clients aren’t at the mercy of hiring a separate agency to handle something that is very communication-based in nature. In addition, companies are choosing more online-driven campaigns, which tend to be less costly than something like an extensive street team effort.
Todd Defren: Again, I see little evidence of this trend. Those smaller teams you suggest are being created will not be scalable to help more than one or two clients. Thus the perceived economies of scale are lost, as agencies of this type are forced to charge more, along the supply and demand curve.
David Griner: I personally doubt that clients will see a noticeable amount of savings if agencies streamline. A 100-hour project will still take 100 hours, whether it’s being done by five people or 25 people. Where you’ll see noticeable improvement is in the level of interaction you’re able to have with agency staffers assigned to your project. Having fewer people assigned to your project means better day-to-day workflow and institutional memory, but the downside is obviously the loss of potential expertise.
What kinds of people are today’s agencies hiring: generalists or specialists? What other trends are you seeing?
Rachel Kay: I think larger agencies have the ability to hire more specialists as opposed to smaller agencies, which need people who can operate across multiple tactics. I really prefer employees who can think about communication strategically, but have the knowledge to execute multiple elements of a program, ensuring every part of the campaign is cohesive and integrated. However, it’s definitely clear that many agencies are choosing to separate traditional and digital departments. I can see this shift continuing for the next several years, but as more and more marketing moves online, those gaps will have to close once again, as everyone will need to be dialed into the digital and mobile spaces.
Todd Defren: More generalists are being hired in great numbers, but there will always be niche opportunities for specialists. One issue for specialists: Technology is getting easier and easier, and expectations of quality are getting lower. Thus a project that might have required a professional videographer may now be covered off by a generalist with an iPhone or FlipCam and some cheap editing software. “Depth” is expensive, and to your earlier point, clients tend to look for economies versus sophistication.
David Griner: Generalists — or at least the truly multi-talented — will always be in high demand as strategists, content creators and agency leaders. They’re insatiably curious, eager to experiment and ‘media neutral’ enough to avoid getting stuck in a rut.
How is your agency changing? Let us know in the comments below.
Series Supported by IDG
The Modern Media Agency Series is supported by IDG. IDG Global Survey Finds Smartphones and Tablet Use Rising Rapidly. Consumers are ditching their traditional cellphones for smartphones. An IDG Global Solutions (IGS) survey found that smartphones are used by more than two-thirds of the almost 14,000 participants worldwide. Tablet ownership — overwhelmingly the iPad — has reached 20%. Click here to find out the mobile momentum.
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