How does the future digital agency model look like?

In the last month, I’ve been extremely involved in digging out opportunities related to Programmatic Marketing and was planning to share about it today, however as I came across an article claiming that the digital agency model we have today is dead, I thought it was worth prioritising it. I am referring to an article published in ‘a website that focuses on everything digital in the emerging markets sphere’ (see source in the footer).

To give a quick overview of the topic, it is a question of reputational risk and the inability of digital agencies in managing this properly due to their lack of knowledge in legal and compliance related topics. We are then provided with the example of Deloitte Digital, which offers digital services additionally to their historical core business (risks & finance advisory), as a potential model.
Having worked agency side most of my working experience and in digital for the last 7 years, I totally agree that there are changes that need to happen quickly in the digital landscape for agencies to continue growing and servicing their clients successfully. However, I am afraid the article does not demonstrate at any point why and how agencies need to change their model.

Certainly, agencies lack legal background; there is usually no legal department as such in most agencies which results for the legal function to be covered through finance, or through external consultancy. That said, it is certainly not the main criteria to judge the success or the failure of digital agencies model.

In regards to positioning Deloitte Digital as the potential disruptor model for digital agencies based on the fact that their mother company understands risks reputation better than others; again this is really providing details around what the new digital agency model should be. Without knowing any of the talents that are for sure working in this company, it is obvious that any other strategy firm – such as Mc Kinsey for example – would master risk-based decisions in a digital environment. In that scenario, Deloitte Digital is just leaning back against its mother company consultancy group that happen to do risk management. So what?

Also, the article tends to focus on social media reputation and its impact for brands. This is indeed a big part of our digital efforts for brands since customer engagement through social channels is a core asset in expanding their business. Nevertheless, it feels to me like we are missing the big picture here: Digital is NOT only covering social media engagement. The digital environment is a holistic ecosystem that has multiple touch points and any good digital agency should deliver a strategy to their clients has a 360 degree understanding of what the customer touch points are – even non-digital – since they all have an influence on the customer engagement, and ultimately the brand reputation. Influence is not only coming from a social point of view, despite what most of the social media want to make us believe, thank god! – and apologies to all the social gurus out there.

As a result, the agencies that will survive are not necessarily the small start-up model, specialised in one unique skill. On the opposite, the rise of behavioural marketing is clearly showing that agencies need to demonstrate multi-disciplines capabilities. The future of digital agencies lies into their ability to be agile, but in an integrated way. Digital marketers need to understand every single piece of the puzzle in order to deliver an ROI and I believe they will only reach this model when they are able to successfully integrate multi-disciplinary profiles that understand creative as well as media planning as well as analytics as well as technology. An agency where people don’t work in silos anymore. Whether big multinational groups can achieve it, this is another debate. In my opinion, Google is, for now, the best (and only?) example of a large company, which has the flexibility to move toward this integrated model.


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