What an agency was capable of producing, has been a fairly accurate guide to how they would be described. High-barriers to entry for each medium with requirements for individual expertise, knowledge and experience, ensured that silos stood firm and line between digital and traditional creative agencies was fairly well defined.
Now that the forces of digital production, digital delivery and digital consumption are all in alignment, ideas more easily flow between and across each medium.
Neil Christie ably described the impact of this alignment in his recent post entitled Post-digital or die! on Welcome to Optimism, where he shared Wieden & Kennedy’s experiences of increasingly being recognised as a leading digital agency, and the lengths they have gone to, to change the make up and outlook of the team to achieve this goal.
The ability to recognise an opportunity for creative to make a difference and amplify an effect is more important, than the ability to master arcane technology on the one hand or create a heart-wrenching 60 second film on the other.
This further move away from just producing ‘stuff’, towards optimising the continuous activity of a brand recognises that the modern creative agency will be measured less by what it makes and more by the relationships it manages.
Which begs the question, isn’t that what media agencies are supposed to be for?
The last 20 years have been a huge success for the stand-alone media agency; freed from the constraints of the full-service set-up they have grown and developed unrivalled buying power and influence. For a while it looked like media would be as fragmented as creative with separate shops for on and offline media, however that distinction seems to have been swept aside fairly effectively already.
Scale and breadth has been essential when marketing’s imperative is to sell more stuff, to more people, more often. But how useful is raw power when billions of impressions can be generated for free if creative, digital and social get their act together; Old Spice being just the latest example.
Naked and others have tried to chart a middle ground before with varying degrees of success, but the crossover between media and creative this time may be more profound. We may not see the widespread return the of the full-service agency but expect to see an increasing debate as to who is driving the strategy when creative agencies are making less and thinking more about where people are and how to reach them.
The jostling for position between creative agencies has been fun to watch, the tussle with media agencies should be even more entertaining.
(A version of this post first appeared in Campaign Magazine.)