Are the creative and media (and other) divisions here to stay? Are we seeing signs of reintegration?
Sajan Raj Kurup, founder and creative chairman, Creativeland Asia (RK): Yes and no. Some traditional marketing firms habituated with the divisions would show serious inertia to move towards reintegration. However, more progressive marketing firms will opt for reintegration. Especially when it comes to digital and social media. Since the digital medium is more dynamic and more driven by innovations and creativity, it would make more sense for creative agencies to reintegrate media and make a more seamless offering.
Vikas Mehta, CMO, Lowe Lintas and Partners and head of LinTeractive (VM): Given both creative and media agencies today claim to provide all services under the marketing sun, probably neither would remain in their current form too long.
There are signs of reintegration all around, albeit it’s still limited to a few large clients. Increasingly, creative and media agencies are fighting for a share of the same pie. There’s a reason why media agencies are hiring creative teams and creative agencies are trying to get better at data and consumer engagement.
To make things more interesting, they are not the only ones in this race. Technology companies, some digital agencies, consulting firms are playing with eyes on the same prize – to become a provider of all marketing services to their clients. I’d say market needs. The consumer is getting more evolved and even more elusive.
That’s putting extra pressure on marketers and agencies alike, to think omni-channel. To deliver omni-channel solutions requires expertise across multiple domains. Today clients are finding these across multiple agency partners and making them collaborate. It’s not the most optimum model, but the prevalent one for now.
What will be the future model of collaboration /integration? A single agency group, or specialists assembled by client?
RK: As always, multiple models will exist in future. But the more popular model of the future will be a toss up between two forms of collaboration. Marketer/client will integrate specialists including media buying within their organisation and outsource creative content to creative shops. The second being a model whereby agency groups will aggregate specialists and provide marketing services on a turnkey basis.
VM: I call it the ‘Convergence Agency’ model. In some ways, it works like a full service agency except, that it’s an ‘aggregated’ offering of domain expertise without having to pretend that it does everything in-house.
An aggregation of specialists, orchestrated by one agency that offers a single point of accountability to clients. It brings top-of-the-line expertise in multiple specialist disciplines including creative, media, digital, PR, activation, direct marketing | CRM, data analytics, design and so on.
Today, clients are playing orchestrator, but eventually if agencies have to survive and thrive, they’ll need to take charge.
Will a quest for integrated solutions from one shop fuel agencies outsourcing specialist talent?
RK: Yes this quest has already begun. Agencies will assume the production house model. Where specialist talent would be hired on need basis.
VM: The model of how agencies source talent will also need to evolve. The universe of expertise that marketing needs to tap into, is vast. It may neither be possible nor necessary for agencies to have all of them as employees. Remember a lot of these domains are so nascent that there may not even be enough talent available to hire.
We’d need to get creative about where we go looking for talent and how we engage with them. Core teams in the agency with a large universe of experts at an arm’s length might be worth attempting.
Will we see an enhanced role for standalone specialists? Which are the domains that would be in demand?
RK: Certain standalone specialists will certainly be in demand. Tech integration (both hardware and software) companies, innovation companies, prototyping labs, UI/UX specialists, for instance.
VM: Specialists would be necessary as domain experts in their respective verticals. As the market starts buying ‘Convergence Agency’ services, the primary role of specialists will be as components of a bundled offering.
While there will be a market for standalone specialists? I suspect the momentum will move away from hiring them, especially for long term relationships. So while some marketers will still hire data scientists for an insight-mining exercise, more are likely to hire a brand consulting service where a data scientist is a key constituent.
Are ‘integrated shops’ or ‘full service’ agencies better equipped to deliver integrated solutions driven by collaboration?
RK: First of all, there is a massive difference between integrated shops and full service agencies. Client partners and marketers will be forced to understand the difference between the two. Truly integrated shops will be better equipped to deliver solutions driven by integration. The usual full service agencies won’t be.
VM: As things stand today in most cases, no. The fact that mass media is still reasonably effective in doing the heavy lifting on brand building, is allowing clients and agencies to get by.
The game has already become more interesting when India has far more mobile screens than TV screens.
Agencies that commit themselves to investing in depth and width of domain expertise, while delivering a great creative product, will do well. The full service agencies of today will have an advantage to the extent that scale will allow them to make these investments faster.