“Big agencies are dead, blah, blah, blah…” Yeah, I get it. The dunning weight of overhead slows a big agency’s ability to innovate even as our world splits and multiplies into all sorts of constructs with the ferocious intensity of paramecium on fertility drugs. Dozens of new ventures pop up every week in the form of micro-agencies, unbundled specialists, project freelancers, and that flexible catchall moniker—marketing consultants. Nimble and quick, these new marketing offerings boast an obvious advantage in cost and flexibility.
But the hard truth in any idea business remains that innovation first flowers in individual minds. And those individuals can work literally anywhere, from big agency structures to someone at her desk in the basement.
The key difference separating those two individuals is access. Thinkers in big agencies have a direct pipeline to the clients that buy and implement their ideas; freelancers stand outside the gates, working phones and email, hoping to gain an audience. So while large agencies battle negative assumptions related to speed and innovation, their client access provides a clear leg up.
Which is where the ‘big agencies are dead’ diatribe comes up short: an idea without an audience may as well be a daydream. Big agencies have more access and, to an ever-varying extent, the advantage of trust. Or at least the occasional indulgence.
Obviously that access can disappear at any time; management changes, CMO’s come and go, acquisitions create redundancies. To some degree, all of us have learned to adapt to this environmental volatility.
But for today we have access. Today we have an open door. And while we have it, we need to keep beating that door down with ideas.
Because sooner or later, one of those crazy new agency alternatives will crack it open and earn an audience.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
PS: Of course, there is a post script regarding those instances when brand managers and CMO’s decide to throw open their doors and invite anyone in to pitch ideas. And it relates to both the promise and the problem of this kind of crowdsourcing. On one hand, you greatly enhance the sheer volume of creative ideas to consider. But on the other, you assume responsibility for managing those ideas, providing cogent feedback, cajoling them into full development, and determining which will be best of the lot. It’s a situation akin to sending personal notes to all of your friends on Facebook; it’s daunting, slow, and exhausting. Why should you take on those headaches?
That’s what you hire an agency for…