How agencies can build offerings against the consultancies which are ‘gobbling up’ agencies

Agencies need to fill gaps around business and technology in order to provide an end-to-end offering like the consultancies which are “gobbling up” agencies, the director of research and insights at SapientRazorfish’s Washington DC office has said.

Speaking to an audience at Mumbrella360’s session on digital transformation, Hilding Anderson said agencies need to grow skills in areas such as organisational design and minimum viable product analysis, to build their ‘back stage’ offering and provide an end-to-end solution like consultancies.

Hilding Anderson: “There is a gap a lot of agencies have around the business and technology orientation”

“As the agency world has done over the last 30 years, there’s a lot of skills that have to be developed. Service design is understood as a need; atomic design, responsive design, people understand that.

“What often is missed are things like technology – knowing how to help, to be knowledgeable around technology, to move fast with technology,” he said.

“All the boring non-agency stuff – like organisational design, MVP analysis or business cases – there’s actually a need for either finding a partner for that side or for having a couple of people that can talk that talk around the business.”

He added helping clients with technology problems was also a key area agencies needed to develop skills in.

“There is a gap a lot of agencies have around the business and technology orientation, that will need to be filled or explored more than it has been.”

The comments followed Anderson’s presentation, Reimagining Business in The Age of The Customer, which suggested consultancies were buying agencies because they had an understanding of integrating customer experience with the”hard stuff”, such as organisation and operations, which occur ‘backstage.’

“The last 15 years in the industry we have totally focused on UX and customer experience and we get that, there’s been some change there.

“What we’ve missed as an industry is the hard stuff. The stuff that really requires the CEO to be like ‘No, we aren’t competing successfully with Amazon, or AirBnb or Tesla.’”

“What you see is that that’s a lot harder and a lot more complex. That’s the next challenge for both clients and agencies and consultancies.

“That’s why all the consultancies are gobbling up all these agencies – because they understand you can’t separate these two anymore and that’s just doing business.

According to Anderson, consultancies are “gobbling up” agencies because they understand the need for integration between CX, organisation and operations

“Doing business today is about merging the two – seamlessly.”

Anderson urged agencies to build their skills and become active in business transformation conversations.

“This idea that marketing is not relevant to the business transformation concept is erroneous.

“Marketing and technology, which have long been the support functions, are now weapons, and agencies have to be part of that conversation to make the change,” he said.

“The new skills and expertise have to be developed. But the fundamentals of agency life remain highly relevant and highly important.”

Anderson said becoming more “customer-led” and “moving away from campaign orientation” was important for marketers in the transformation process.

“For the CMO and for agencies, there are multiple changes that have to be made. The first is you are much more customer led.

“The second is moving away from this campaign orientation to something much faster – rapid, test and learn, short cycles.

“A third is a fundamental orientation shift away from the push marketing and towards this idea of pull,” he explained.

Anderson: “This idea that marketing is not relevant to the business transformation concept is erroneous”

Commenting on the lack of advertising effectiveness in the current media landscape, Anderson pointed out advertising – as it is traditionally defined – is becoming less effective.

“If you look at the ad blocking numbers, we know that people have more control today than ever before around access to ads.

“By traditional measures, pretty clearly, advertising effectiveness has fallen through to the floor.

“The fundamental job of marketing is creating a market for your product on some level.

“There is a role for educating, of saying we know who you are and we can solve a problem for you but it’s not push, it’s pull,” he explained.

“The job for agencies and marketers today is creating an opportunity to interact and to bring a great product in to people’s lives.

“That doesn’t mean you don’t want to influence people and generate value for people.”


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