Agencies reinvented: from jack of all trades to master of one

by: on 07 July 2015

Big changes are afoot in the media industry that could completely reshape the future of the ‘full service agency’.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an influx of new content start-ups appear on the scene. Their USP? One thing, done really well. And that’s it. 

At the beginning of this year, Adam & Eve/DDB’s chief executive, James Murphy, said this about full service agencies in Campaign: "It’s a rebirth that is already under way but will truly flower this year due to client demand and the ability of agencies to offer powerful brand strategy allied to seamless delivery across channels."

But will it and do they? What we do know is an ever-increasing number of small shops are springing up offering a single service, done very well. It’s to their credit that large agencies are broadening their service offering in response.

In media land, trends come and go quite like fashion. If you stand still long enough, what once was will come back around and reappear as the latest must-have. This seems to be case with service or what clients call ‘capabilities’. Whilst clients crave the ease and convenience of everything under one roof, they are still reaching out and working with small start-up shops due to the increased level of service they promise and the talent they offer.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an influx of new content start-ups appear on the scene. Their USP? One thing, done really well. And that’s it. Whether that be video production or events or advocacy, they do one thing and have no intention of turning their hand to anything else. The desire to specialise in this way is understandable – many of the founders of these start-ups worked at agencies that went from doing one thing really well, to doing lots of things with mixed levels of success.

Gravity Road, an entertainment start-up set up in 2011 by Mark Eaves and Mark Boyd, is a good example of a successful specialist. The agency’s mantra is to be ‘clever with content’ and if its output over the past few years is anything to go by, it is delivering on this in spades for Cadbury, Bacardi and a raft of other brands. Meanwhile, BzzAgent focuses on brand advocacy, creating natural earned media content and conversations on and offline through a network of passionate and highly social ‘Agents’.

Success is breeding success for these small shops, with clients adopting the service structures being set up by agencies. Likewise, innovative agencies are adapting to client requirements for certain structures and adopting these.

This evolution is a positive trend for agencies and clients alike. We should give credit to the small start-ups that are shaking up the marketplace and challenging the bigger agencies to offer a more engaging and integrated offering. While they aren’t going to steal anyone’s lunch anytime soon, they have the opportunity to take big bites out of the most appetising pieces – meaning larger agencies can’t rest on their laurels.

We can expect the next few years to be characterised by developments that will be good for clients and our industry – broader capabilities, a better service and a more vibrant marketplace that has a thirst to deliver content that really cuts through.

By Joy Armitage, Social Media and Innovation Director, dunnhumby