It used to be that things were neatly divided into pretty categories:
An advertising agency created ads (and if they did media placement, they placed the ads). Some of course were better than others.
A marketing agency could do a variety of things depending on their specialty ranging from brand identity (design, slogan, etc.), perhaps creating your website, some paid advertising (overlaps a bit with an advertising firm), maybe helped with events and other ways to get the word out (such as digital fun things like search engine optimization or more traditional like direct mail). Some of course were better than others.
A public relations agency focuses on media attention. This used to be limited to pitching traditional media for articles, placement, etc. Some firms helped you put on events. Some of course were better than others.
And in each category of course, there are consultants that help clients DIT: Do It Themselves.
And then the social and creative web started to become mainstream and the game has completely changed. Things are smarter, faster, cheaper as opposed to dumber, slower, expensive.
The happy divide between marketing, advertising and public relations has crumbled.
Now there amazing do-it-yourself tools that entrepreneurs, big brands and all clients can use if they so choose.
Many companies (big and small) can handle all their marketing, public relations and advertising themselves (this wasn’t true even just ten years ago).
However, There will always be a market though for those that need some help. They just might not need help from a bloated agency using old-school tactics (that was said nicely wasn’t it)?
Now, many firms, consultants, etc. are re-branding. Perhaps they are now communications companies, or social media marketing companies (yikes), digital marketing agencies, we-make-you-money-hahaha companies, buzzword-of-the-day firms or whatever. Evolution is good for those that understand how to maximize the new (and ridiculously changing world). Evolution is bad for the ones sitting there yearning for the days of yesterday.
Plus, client expectation and education levels have changed. Folks have become (and continue to be) much more educated on things like social media, blogs, search engine optimization and creating online content.
Which leads to this question: What is the future of marketing, PR and advertising agencies going to look like?
While I don’t have a crystal ball (or do I? muhahaha) based on thousands of conversations with entrepreneurs, big brands, consultants and agencies, and through content consulting here are some thoughts:
1. Jacks Of One Trade: Specialized Experts
The days of Mad Men are long gone. Bloated agencies are screwed. Why? For one thing: MASSIVE overhead. Big buildings, segways for employees, whatever.
This model ends up driving up expense and instead of a well oiled machine, creates an environment that often isn’t cutting edge, but slow-moving. Slow to make decisions. Slow to take action. I know I’d rather work with a lean agency with a specific specialization than a “jack of all trades that costs me my first born.”
Sure, it is nice to have “everyone under one roof” for control purposes, but now there is this Internet thing and more ways to do work virtually. A team of freelancers can be assembled in a jiffy. Or a consultant. Does it take more work on the agency end to do this? Absolutely. But why hire a bunch of experts as opposed to bring them in on a per project basis or set up a referral network?
I’d bet the future will be more about partnerships between highly specialized experts as opposed to the big box model.
2. Help With Content
It used to be that if you had a budget, you could just hand over all of your marketing, advertising or public relations and sit back and “watch and approve the magic.” The problem with this, and where we are going in the future, is that smarter, faster, cheaper promotion and advertising requires participation from the client.
Because smarter, faster, cheaper is all about the client becoming a trusted resource as opposed to a product pusher. The go-to person. Online and off.
New marketing isn’t about banner ads or a firm “Tweeting and interacting online on behalf of you”, it is about content. Let’s pretend your client is “Joe’s Delicious Dog Food.”
Perhaps you help Joe create “The Dog Hour” an online show or podcast. Or a doggy get-together where people bring out their pets. Or “Doginars” where Joe helps teach old dogs new tricks (couldn’t resist).
Joe is the thought leader. He knows the content. You don’t. But, you can help if you have a knowledge of what kind of content spreads, how to create it, market it, measure it and monetize it.
There is a huge value to help clients with this and agencies of the future are going to have to hop onto the content train. Toot.
3. Agencies Become Educators
Teaching will be another model that will continue to take shape. More specifically, teaching people and companies. Not keeping the secret sauce secret. This means educating and enabling as opposed to controlling (practice what you preach, right?).
This means agencies/consultants, etc. will continue to create their own content online and off.
Perhaps it is monthly events in your home town where you invite out business owners and marketers.
And in many ways, this content can be monetized directly. Perhaps instead of clients, you have subscribers and create a community. A membership site or a mentoring program.
The end result is part publisher and part agency.
4. Not Outsourcing Relationships
Let’s talk about social media for a second. A lot of agencies and consultants are offering social media services for their clients. Great.
But, what exactly is being offered and what should be offered?
Can an agency assist with content creation? Can an agency find relevant articles/other content in your niche to share on Twitter, Facebook, etc.? Can an agency suggest people to follow? Can an agency set up a Facebook page and Twitter account for you? Can an agency suggest tweeting topics? Can an agency post content to your Twitter and Facebook accounts? Suggest blogs and forums you should be participating in/on? I would say YES to all of the above with millage varying.
But can an agency “be you” and act like you online? Form relationships with people? Small talk and make it look like it is coming from the CEO? The answer here is a resounding NO.
If a goal is to build relationships and trust, you can’t outsource it. The client HAS to participate. This doesn’t mean sitting behind the computer all day, but it does mean dedicating some time to interacting which is social aspect of social media.
The problem we all see over and over is an agency doing all of the above in the YES category and ignoring the NO category or trying to it themselves. This is sure recipe for disaster and either results in a broadcast stream (aka a bullhorn with no interaction) or fake interaction done by the agency as opposed to the person (the human) that needs to be doing it. Yuck.
As with everything, time to evolve.
5. Respect The Blogger And New Media Sources
I’m not suggesting that traditional media is dead. It isn’t. I’m not saying traditional advertising is dead. It isn’t. But, there are some incredible opportunities online to generate buzz, sales, trust and more that many agencies aren’t educated on.
There are blogs and new media sources with incredible sponsorship and advertising opportunities that go beyond print ads, 30-second ads and the dreaded banner ad (more on this in an upcoming post). Not only are they cost-efficient, but they laser cut the demographic you are looking for.
In our example, “Joe’s Delicious Dog Food” in the past might be “pitched” by an agency to the local paper. 93% of the readers couldn’t care less about dogs (probably more). Or perhaps the agency places one of Joe’s commercials on Animal Planet. Good choice, but still not a guarantee that people watching a lion eat a duck (or something) own a dog. Plus, I bet that ad is super expensive.
As opposed to pitching the local paper, why not start building relationships with bloggers and new sources in your clients niches? Keyword here is relationships (In many cases traditional and new media are different animals. Different etiquette. Different wants and needs. Trust me.)
Why not help Joe form a relationship with 20 dog bloggers? Perhaps Joe can guest post on their sites and Joe can put up their blogs on his website. Or he can give them some dog food to try and ask for an honest review.
Or on the paid side, why not sponsor a doggy web show or podcast? I bet it will cost a FRACTION of a TV ad, reach dog owners and allow more bang for the buck. Perhaps Joe goes on the dog show to talk about nutrition for animals. Or the trusted show hosts plugs the food. Or Joe sponsors a series called “Getting Doggy With It” where the show host records doggy karaoke. OK, I’m getting nutty here, but you get the idea.
Traditional media in many cases is like a one night stand. It is hot, sexy and then it is over. Online media (content sponsorships, guest posts on blogs, blurbs, etc.) is more like a long-term relationship. Online content is spreadable and can increase in value over time since is stays up.
Agencies of the future will have to learn a little more respect for the blogger and new media source.
Wrapping It Up:
All in all, these are VERY exciting times for both agencies, consultants, business owners, entrepreneurs, marketers looking to evolve and maximize the newest era of business.
Some will be left in the dust of course, but many will thrive.
Which leads to this question: What do you think? What does your crystal ball say?
Love to hear your thoughts below.
PS: Shameless plug: My book website just launched this week and Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business is now available for pre-sale. Woohoo!