There has been much talk about the broken agency model, especially since and possibly because of the recent moves into SA by the global behemoths. This made me think of the lost art of communications and whilst I completely agree that the model is broken, I think it broke long ago… it broke way back at the dawn of the big, sexy advertising agencies.
However, because they reigned supreme for so long nobody really paid much attention until digital came along and then because everyone suddenly found nirvana and converted to the religion of integration, the model just continued. So today we have these ‘heavy’, integrated agencies all completely incorrectly placed for the new age of accelerations, with the double-edged sword of insane shareholder expectations and ever more ruthless client procurement teams. And the result… agencies are focused on selling the highest margin service offering and the art of communications has been sacrificed at the altar of profit.
I have for more years than I care to recall debated vigorously with the various agencies that I have worked with that I need good old fashioned PR people managing my ‘integrated’ account. I happily concede that my training and experience in PR has moulded this life view, but I am adamant that it is the correct life view.
Back in the day when I was an AD in a PR agency I was responsible for setting client strategy AND executing it. When I joined corporate and started working with digital and ATL agencies, I was horrified by the glorified postman AD’s I came across. That such a position and job spec even exists is beyond me! Luckily I worked with some really great agencies who ‘got’ the point and as a result we co-created some amazing work over the years, although not without some hard core feedback from time to time.
When I think about what those hard conversations were about, it was always the same thing – digital agency recommended digital gimmicks; ATL agency recommended cool campaign ideas; PR agency was too weak to put them all in their place and everyone was pointed back to the strategy.
The communications strategy has to be first and central to all efforts and I would go so far as to say that it takes precedence over the marketing strategy. First comes the business strategy and leading directly off that should be the communications strategy which determines which communications (or marketing) tools should be deployed to solve which business problems.
Sadly this rarely happens but as they say in the classics, from adversity rises opportunity and I’m now on a crusade to change all of that!
If you feel that your business could do with a new approach to corporate positioning, brand building, reputation management and strategic communications please get in touch.