The Agency Of The Future Is…

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The Agency of the future is the Digital Marketing Agency of today.

(but that’s not how they spin the news).

MarketingVox released a news item today titled, Marketers’ Top 10 Wish List for Agencies of the Future. The results of a Sapient-sponsored national online survey in the United States of two-hundred CMOs (Chief Marketing Officer) revealed that what really keeps Marketers awake at night is the fact that they are spending more and more in the Digital channel and will continue to do so within the next twelve months. In fact, more than a quarter of the CMOs surveyed indicated that 50% of their marketing efforts are currently done in the digital channels and close to forty percent said that within the next twelve months from 50% to 100% of their marketing will make the digital shift.

The Top 10 Wish List for Agencies of the Future:

1. Greater knowledge of the digital space. With more than a third of marketers surveyed revealing that they are not confident that their current agency is well-positioned to take their brand through the unchartered waters of online digital marketing and interactive advertising, it’s clear that agencies need to have a greater knowledge of the digital space in order to thrive. In fact, nearly half (45 percent) of the respondents have switched agencies (or plan to switch in the next 12 months) for one with greater digital knowledge or have hired an additional digital specialist to handle their interactive campaigns. Further, when it comes to an agency’s area of expertise, 79% of respondents rated “interactive/digital” functions as ‘important/very important.’

2. More use of “pull interactions.” When trying to engage consumers with their brand, 90 percent of respondents agree that it is becoming increasingly important that their agency uses ‘pull interactions’ such as social media and online communities rather than traditional ‘push’ campaigns.

3. Leverage virtual communities. An overwhelming 94 percent of respondents expressed interest in leveraging virtual communities (public and private) to understand more about their target audience.

4. Agency executives using the technology they are recommending. Ninety-two percent of respondents said it was ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ important that agency employees use the technologies that they are recommending. For example, it is important that agency executives regularly use Facebook, Flickr, wikis, blogs, etc. in their personal social media mix.

5. Chief Digital Officers make agencies more appealing. Forty-three percent of marketers surveyed said that agencies with chief digital officers are more appealing than those without.

6. Web 2.0 and social media savvy. Sixty three percent of marketers surveyed said that an agency’s Web 2.0 and social media capabilities are ‘important/very important’ when it comes to agency selection.

7. Agencies that understand consumer behavior. Seventy-six percent of respondents deemed this as an ‘important/very important’ aspect of their agency’s online digital marketing and interactive advertising area of expertise.

8. Demonstrate strategic thinking. Seventy-seven percent of marketers surveyed ranked strategy/brain trust capabilities at the top of their agency wish list.

9. Branding and creative capabilities. Sixty-seven percent of respondents ranked branding at the top of their agency wish list while seventy-six percent ranked creative capabilities as‘important/very important.’

10. Ability to measure success. It’s no surprise that marketers want an agency that can report on where campaigns succeeded, fell short and where they should be fine-tuned. Sixty-five percent ranked analytics at the top of their agency wish list.

(the above list and commentary was pulled from this press release: Sapient – Survey Reveals Brand Marketers’ Top 10 Wish List for Agencies of the Future).

The only challenge to calling the agency of the future the Digital Marketing agency of today is that we’re not seeing enough interactive shops take the lead on points #8 (demonstrate strategic thinking) and #9 (branding and creative capabilities). More often than not, most Digital Marketing shops are adapting current/existing Marketing initiatives and are not taking the (or being given) opportunity to drive the over strategy in regards to the brand, marketing goals, outcomes and marketing optimization. It’s happening is some instances, but for the Digital Marketing agency of today to really take full ownership of this list from the future, strategic thinking and becoming the guardian of the brand are essential.

What kind of agency are you working with and would you agree that this list looks strikingly similar to the core competencies of the Digital Marketing agency of today?


  1. Sounds more like the agency of right now….
    I would add one item to that list – the extension of the interactive channel to mobile.. and then other screens.
    The future is multi-screen

  2. Bridging the gap between strategy and technological execution is holding back a lot of agencies. As some agencies have positioned themselves as web sites production specialist and others as “advertising” or microsite gurus, the two will need to come together with equal leverage from the DEV side as well as the strategic side. Balance will be the key to retain the true value of creative strategy through effective execution.

  3. Item #4 really jumps out at me – the need for a salesmen to know exactly what they’re selling and give guidance on exactly how to use it is crucial. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of agencies touting how great Twitter is because one of their outsourced freelancers uses it was higher than we think.
    I agree with Phil above as well, that mobile knowledge will be huge, as will the shift from separate TV and Internet channels to converged.
    With everything mushing into one massive integrated channel, I’d say the agency of the future needs a deep understanding of how things are going to dovetail off one another (and how to apply them to the client’s brand, product, etc) and most importantly know what’s coming next and how to ‘use’ it properly the second it does arrive on the scene.
    Mitch, I used to live down the street from your offices on St. Denis, I see Twist are doing very well these days, I’m happy to hear it!

  4. I completely agree with the top 10 and was just contemplating my own agency’s core competencies just the other day. I know of many agencies that are not moving into the digital space and I’ve definitely questioned how they will compete or even bring new ideas to the table. If all you do is branding, you’re going to have to do really amazing branding in order to compete in that niche. As a person responsible for the agency relationship with my company, what I really want is a partner who is going to take my company’s best interests to heart: someone who will recommend messages and media that are relevant to my customers rather than messages and media that suit their own talents. The best case scenario is where those two places come together. In my situation, I have been the person driving the digital media from the client side.

  5. Hi Mitch, I too posted this great list that Sapient helped to put together on my blog. The main issue I have with the whole survey is that they went to marketers responsible for digital budgets, rather than a wider sample of marketers in general. In my opinion this influenced the outcome and made the survey more about the “Digital Agency” of the future, not the general agency of the future.
    That being said, the one point for me that stands out is the concept of the Chief Digital Officer. Wow – I mean it seems so simple, but I haven’t met anyone with that title yet.
    Oh yeah – don’t forget to use the social tools you try to sell your clients too…

  6. I agree that the universe of respondents being responsible for digital budget skewed these results.
    While many of these wish list items are solid requests (especially eating thy own dog food and measuring results), this reads a bit heavy on the digital side. No surprise coming from Sapient, but this gets close to a “we only care about digital” mindset, and that’s clearly not the case.
    I would have preferred to see a wish list item along the lines of “logical, synergistic planning that includes both digital and traditional tactics, each deployed when optimal.”
    I just finished a comprehensive blog post about this concept of digital not being able to stand alone.
    “The Alarming Truth About Digital Marketing’s Imperfections”
    Jason Baer
    Convince & Convert – Internet consulting for advertising and PR agencies

  7. Could not agree with this post more. It was very reassuring to see validation of everything we have been putting in place at our agency over the last two years. Tech-savvy creative marketers with their feet firmly planted in strategy will be the CMO’s dream come true.

  8. Awesome additional comments – many thanks all.
    There were some good comments on Twitter as well.
    Here they are:
    hamiltonink1 @mitchjoel Agency of the Future equals Digital + CRM Practices. The race is on to bring the best of both worlds together in a surprising way
    Monicuta @mitchjoel Absolutely agree! For the most part that IS the agency of the future where I would want to put all/most of my marketing dollars

  9. That’s right. I can’t remember how many times I had been interviewed by “expert” in Web Marketing for a job. They all ask :”Which social networks do you use?”
    “I use Twitter Digg Stumble etc…”
    “Sorry what is Stumble Upon?”
    yeah and they call themselves experts in social media and web marketing. And even though they know some of the social network they don’t use it. or if they use it, it’s just for a client and to pollute us with advertising

  10. ive just read Dan pink’s ‘a whole new mind’, for anyone who’s not read it i’d recommend it as a starter if you are thinking about ‘new’ agency models. The chapter on ‘Empathy’ as one of the six new senses particularly resonated.
    Good post, this is def a conversation thats going to keep gaining momentum.

  11. Absolutely, I think a large percentage of agencies are looking for ways to hit this checklist as quick as possible. Good call on #8 and #9 – hopefully agencies continue to recognize the importance and value of merging smart creatives with tech-savvy, strategic programmers to help accomplish those goals.

  12. I think it’s really easy for agenies to get wrapped up in the tools, without realizing they are just that – tools.
    Useful/interesting/entertaining content that focuses on the benefit to the audience, being relevant, creating honest and meaningful relationships are still what drives great marketing efforts in my opinion. That hasn’t changed, but sometimes, it seems to take a back seat. Online or traditional tools simply allow it to happen in more ways. I think that’s been the biggest stumbling block for agencies is getting too caught up and running after the latest gee whiz ltechnology and forgetting about what it’s all about – connecting at the human level.

  13. Pull interaction, consumer behavior and analytics can say truly digital marketing components. As Internet becomes more search query and contextual based, users get relevant information across the web.
    Anything you can measure and track on Internet marketing with the help of web analytics tools. Studying the analytics and campaign performance, improves ROIs.
    Overall, all 10 points says it requires strategic & analytical skills digital agency have rather what tools & technology they use.

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