The Connected Agency

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I had a slew of flights this week and was finally able to tear through a Forrester Research report called, The Connected Agency, by Mary Beth Kemp and Peter Kim. Peter was kind enough to shoot it over to me after we finally met in our "protein forms" at the ACA – Association of Canadian Advertisers – event, Continuing The Conversation, last April in Toronto. For the record, Peter is an awesome presenter and – if you get the chance – is not to be missed.

Here’s the executive summary:

"Today’s agencies fail to help marketers engage with consumers, who, as a result, are becoming less brand-loyal and more trusting of each other. To turn the tide, marketers will move to the Connected Agency — one that shifts: from making messages to nurturing consumer connections; from delivering push to creating pull interactions; and from orchestrating campaigns to facilitating conversations. Over the next five years, traditional agencies will make this shift; they will start by connecting with consumer communities and will eventually become an integral part of them."

The crux of this report focuses on these concepts:

1. Creative and media agencies are stuck in the mass media world.

2. Digital agencies "get" interaction but are newcomers to branding.

3. Specialist boutiques support social media.

4. New players compensate for left-brain deficiencies.

5. There are gaps with existing agencies.

So, what are the solutions? According to the report:

1. The need to move from messages to connections.

2. Media must move from push to pull interactions.

3. Operations have to move from campaigns to conversations.

What were my takeaways? Agencies (interactive and traditional) are both in flux. We’re all trying to figure out this space and establish best practices. Marketing is, indeed, changing. Is it good or bad? I think it’s all opportunity. Those who are threatened by the changes never really had a snowball’s chance in hell. Those who embrace the change and flux will need to ramp up, get more experience (both in terms of resources and creativity), and they’ll need to prove that they’re not just about tactics, but that they get the brand and that they understand the underlying strategy behind it all.

Do we really have any choice? Doubtful. If we’re not all acting like The Connected Agency, what are we doing?


  1. Speak of the devil and he’ll leave a comment on your blog. It was nice meeting you in person, courtesy ACA. I think we’ve seen the outcome of being dis-connected play out over the past year, courtesy of Nike and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. CP+B wins account, has digital acumen, i.e. where consumers are heading. CP+B loses account, big ideas are off point, i.e. disconnected. But only insiders know who was actually missing the point – was it the agency or the client?

  2. Geez, Peter… you don’t even wait for the body to get cold ๐Ÿ˜‰
    There are also many digital shops who are winning pieces of business and picking up more and more client business from that first piece based on their ability to deliver, not only on brand, but something compelling and engaging for the interactive channel that may not be about the campaign, but much more focused on the strategy and how it plays out online.
    CP+B did it with Burger King (and others).

  3. I was just having this conversation with a friend yesterday about where digital integration fits in with Advertising vs. PR agencies as well. These lines are blurring.
    I really liked Chris Heuer’s comment on twitter about how “the biggest difference in marketing today is that it’s about paying attention instead of paying for attention… Takes time not money.”

  4. I do not really concur with that report in full.
    Media has become exceptionally specific thus creating a need for specialists to tie up the loose ends. And classical marketing instruments are yet again covered by other specialists. A phenomenon I realized a short while back when I was hired by an external web design firm from India to consult them with a foreign client.

  5. Looking at agencies from the outside, it’s always been my impression that they are motivated, in part, by their portfolios and by design awards. These awards never seem to judge ROI or target audience engagement…so maybe that is part of the problem? Are there agency awards out there that reward “paying attention” instead of “paying for attention”?

  6. I’m grateful for the summary seeing as how the report was almost $300 and probably very lengthy.
    I find this very intriguing, especially the of the suggested solutions. They are very similar to some of the brief ideas that I presented in my contribution to The Age of Conversation 2. One idea that I touched on there, was how agencies should work to become more of a piece inside of client companies, showing them how all of the touch points of their business are related and what they can do to make sure that all interactions down the channel are consistent. Online and Offline should both have the same voice for the brand.
    Keep it up Mitch. I enjoy the podcast also.

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