February 11, 2020
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Thought

Why We Need a New Agency Model

By:
Lauren Espiritu
/
Founder and Head of Product

Ever feel like we’re living in chaos? Wading around in this information-rich world with our eyes simultaneously wide open and blindfolded? According to Nielsen, American adults now spend over 11 hours each day interacting with various forms of media. With creative professionals being the most immersed demographic, our eagerness to conquer every emerging platform, channel, and device often comes at the risk of exceeding our bandwidth, leading to a blurred forward-facing message and our least favorite symptom: burn out. So, why are our systems failing us? AdWeek declares that the traditional agency model is no longer sustainable for several reasons:  Antiquated operating models coupled with a perceived inability to produce authentic content, are both the cause and effect of an inherent disconnect that many agencies currently have with their client brands. Content is in higher demand than ever, and as resources wear thin, so does the creative capacity. Managing complex multi-channel workflows means that teams are inherently limited to strike a healthy balance between getting the work done and producing top-quality assets that cut through the digital noise and deliver on converting customers. 

Modern agencies will not be just the specialist groups that have been core to the traditional agency and consulting models. Instead, they are matrixed organizations who can fill critical gaps for their clients, help chart a path through uncertainty and instill a forward-thinking mentality that highlights just how interconnected our world has become.

In the end, it comes down to two challenges: workflow management and efficient scalability. No matter where you fall on the brand-agency spectrum, producing quality content at high volumes is hard to do when your team is busy chasing down files, edits, and approvals. In a recent sample of client analyses, we estimated that creative teams spend a minimum of 32% of their time reacting to the administrative tasks associated with their workload. It’s no wonder then, that creative teams are reaching maximum capacity before a project is even executed. The fact is that the agency model is in flux and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future because businesses are continually presented with new ways of working. In the meantime, we have a few ideas on how to start shifting mindsets and structures in ways that generate results.

Flatter Hierarchies, Stronger Partnerships

Wave goodbye to the days of working in silos and welcome in a new era of matrixed working environments. We’ve seen a rise in this way of working where individual projects have stakeholders from several areas of expertise within one  organization. The benefit of working with matrixed teams is that they are cross-functional by nature, a full range of skills can be applied to projects, and business objectives from different groups are considered holistically in a project’s outcome. In this environment, it’s not unusual to see technology and finance pros collaborate on high-profile creative projects. Having these skills present in creative planning has become imperative to leading successful initiatives, as they minimize the impact of high-risk decisions.

As a result, flatter hierarchies allow teams to  move at an accelerated, more cohesive pace. Strategic partnerships reinforce this behavior by introducing expertise that may not exist in-house. Instead of traditional consulting arrangements and outsourcing models, we see brands opting for a hybrid approach to working with external resources. The more dynamic the method, the greater the ability for a brand or agency to “flex and pull” partner resources and take on opportunities they may not have been equipped for otherwise.

Adaptable Connectivity

When it comes to the distribution of content, operational infrastructure, and the way individuals and teams connect with one another on a personal level, technology plays a pivotal role. The rate at which technology is changing, however, is a double-edged sword. With more accessible technologies, the complexities involved in using new systems increases, not to mention the fact that it's difficult to navigate all of the potential options. A single faulty technology decision can lead to the cause of heavy burdens in nearly every aspect of a business; think data security issues, operational inefficiencies, and high-cost solutions to mention a few.

“Right-sized” technology must take obsolescence into account. As recently as 5 years ago, businesses were selecting and implementing technology with the intention that each tool would be permanent. But nothing is permanent, at least not when it comes to practising business and operations. Today there are literally thousands, if not millions, of applications and connectors available at a relatively low cost. While the choices can be overwhelming, the benefit is that teams can reconfigure their toolsets as quickly as the needs of the organization change.

Aligning technology decisions with the demands of creative production requires a flexible approach that is continuously improved upon, and business leaders that embrace the fact that their tech stack needs to adapt continually are among the most agile. Digital adaptability is an essential characteristic of businesses who possess a distinct advantage over their competitors. The greater your ability to strategically pick and choose how technology works for your business, the greater the ability to mitigate any risk associated with misguided decisions.

A Solution Mindset

In order to change the way we work, we need to start by changing the way we think. The new agency model calls for teams to be adept at identifying problems and generating solutions. “Design Thinking” has taken off in popularity because cyclical problem solving is not only prevalent for content-heavy businesses but also highly relatable for the creatives responsible for content production. 

In our research, we find that creative teams spend a minimum of 32% of their time reacting to the administrative tasks associated with their workload.

Creative teams who are overwhelmed by their workload can benefit from having an external partner on board who can offer objectivity when making decisions and provide structure for implementing change. We see so many traditional creative teams operating in a reactive state, however, any business leader’s objective should be to get their team to a place where they’re able to make proactive decisions. In order for businesses to evolve and move forward, it’s critical they adopt a solution orientated mindset. 

360 Communication

Whoever said communication is key, was right, particularly in the workplace. When you have cross-functional goals and constant technology and process changes, well-defined and reliable methods of communicating with (and educating) teams is imperative. Communication improvement tools aside (we know there are plenty),we’re also seeing agencies and marketing teams adopting project management methodologies to work in tandem with these solutions. 

Agencies and brands that keep themselves in check with their mission and core competencies are more capable of cutting through the noise in their day-to-day operations, and ideally, something that is also reflected in the quality of their work. The crux of creative capacity is knowing when your team’s time and attention, aka  your most precious capital, needs to be redirected for the betterment of the business.

Modern agencies will not be just the specialist groups that have been core to the traditional agency and consulting models. Instead, they are matrixed organizations who can fill critical gaps for their clients, help chart a path through uncertainty and instill a forward-thinking mentality that highlights just how interconnected our world has become.

Lauren started off her career as a photographer, eventually learning that she had a knack for building systems and thriving in highly cross-functional creative environments. Over the last decade, she has helped bridge the gap between creative production, operations, marketing and technology teams in industries ranging from fashion, beauty, television, publications, financial services, and non-profit organizations. Her highly varied experiences always have a common thread: helping people working with creative content to break down complex situations, and provide them with a plan to help them reach their goals.

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