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The Marketing Agency Dilemma

Those running marketing agencies today face a crushing dilemma.  Of course there are the usual challenges: a surfeit of competitors, including large, lumbering giants and hungry startups; a shortage of creative business problem-solvers; and an unforgiving economic climate squeezing everyone, client and supplier alike.

Even considering all this, the chief problem is not one of opportunity: more brands than ever need all the help they can get when it comes to delivering on their marketing promise.

The definitive challenge for agencies today is strategic: where to compete.

The dilemma is whether to remain (or enter) a traditional arena – say, direct or digital promotional marketing – or, more bravely, chart new territory. A rash of new agencies, including Headshift in the UK and Dachis Group States-side, are exploring the idea of social business design, an emerging discipline using the tenets of social media to improve business processes.

It’s unfair, in many ways, for existing agencies. They’re uncomfortably watching the industry shift, literally, under their feet, many (still) nervously pondering how to respond. It’s a conundrum they’ve been facing for years and lots still haven’t figured out what to do, not because they’re incapable but because each time they restructure, another step-change occurs within the industry.

For agencies which have been around a reasonable time, say more than five years, any re-tooling of the offering will be difficult; they will simply have too much invested in maintaining their client base and work.  They can add services, increase their capabilities and capacity but these are tactical responses to a strategic challenge.

The pain brands feel is no longer just in distribution; agencies are efficiently set up to deliver creative solutions for distribution. The pain brands need to address is the fundamental internal needs of businesses themselves, needs which exist in multiple dimensions.

Ultimately, this is a concern only for those agencies interested in real, sustained growth; for while there will always be a need for the bread-and-butter shops which churn out creative executions, this is not where future growth lies.

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  1. 7 December, 2009 at 14:12

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