Agency Model: Production farms are not the answer

As usual, there has been a lot of news and discussion about the future of the advertising industry. 

In one article, Sir Martin Sorrell, discusses S4’s vision of the future of advertising. His theory, is to remove creative agencies from the picture and focus solely on the content production to feed his marketing machine. Thus running marketing efforts in an always on, operational-efficient manner; devoid of big idea. In S4’s prospectus below, his new machine, lead currently by MediaMonks, creates and distributes content at the end of brand identity development, removed from campaign or messaging development.


In another article, Adweek discusses the trends of creative shops pivoting towards becoming production-led organizations, rather than creative-led. The demand of the marketplace has skyrocketed in terms of channels, targeted messaging and personalization all leading to more and more content. And with this need for more content, comes more budget from advertisers trying to find a solution that kickstarts their brand growth. In this equation, more equals better success.


While there is no mistaking, we are in a new world of marketing and communications. One that requires a new approach to the expectations and needs of consumer behaviors. One that is more focused on demand capture and retention versus acquisition and campaign. But these two articles show a knee-jerk reaction to this marketplace and something that, in my view, isn’t going to be sustainable in the long term for our industry.

Solving Business Problems: One of the bigger red flags that I see in both models is the reaction to the surface-level challenges: more channels = more messages = more billable time to develop content. The thing that’s missing is the strategic vision and perspective to transform brands to become more suited to meet and exceed their shifting client expectations. And this won’t happen through the mindset of communications and marketing alone. It has to be a combination with effecting the entire consumer experience, to craft a holistic brand experience that integrates communication, transaction, retail and relationships. More content may be needed, but it is not the end all solution.

Technology: The biggest challenge that I see in these two models is the prioritization of human resources over technology. In the S4 model, he’s relying heavily on creating the future of the marketing engine, from digital experiences to data driven creative production. On the other hand, production companies are trying to find ways to shift their human capital towards the money, the opportunity to find more billable time to create all this “needed” content. The problem with these models is they are two sides of the same spectrum, with the solution being found somewhere in the middle. While Sir Martin builds the marketing engine, there still needs to be a creative big idea to drive consumer interest and engagement. The problem is managing the balance and role between human versus technological capital. 


There is definitely a shift that is happening in our industry that we need to solve for, but more content is never the answer. We need to fully understand the problems, challenges and opportunities our client’s businesses are having and go about solving them. These resolutions, won’t be simply increasing our billable hours by making more things, but building models and experiences that continually evolve and grow over time. We need to use technology to do what technology is good at and empower our human capital to do more of what it’s good at. Our point of view really falls in two categories: 

We need to use technology to do what technology is good at and empower our human capital to do more of what it’s good at.

Brand Experience: We firmly believe that the future of brand growth lies within the experience the brand creates for their consumer. Not simply advertising and not a new retail concept alone. But an integrated, holistic view of the consumer with the appropriate brand experience to satisfy and exceed the needs of each consumer, from communications, to websites, to commerce, to retail, to customer service, to loyalty. Each aspect of the consumer journey needs to create, capture, engage and satisfy the consumer demand. This approach will be the most efficient and effective path towards growth in the near and long term. 

Human + Technology: We also firmly believe that technology is the best friend to the human, both the creatives and strategists planning the brand experience, but also the consumer interacting with the experience. 

  • On the planning side of the house, we look for ways and build tools that empower the things that humans are good at and automate things that should be automated. The human capital in our organizations shouldn’t be used to rapidly produce or replicate content over and over. It should be used to become better marketers, more creative and more strategic to truly solve our client business challenges. The human capital provides the high octane gas through strategy and creativity that powers the marketing machine. In fact, our first product CreativeOS is dedicated to automating elements in the creative production process to give more time back to creatives and strategist to become better creatives and strategists.

  • On the experience side of the house, we believe in what S4 is communicating on crafting a data-enabled holistic experience for our consumers. There is a multitude of new data that shows the changing expectations of consumers wanting an integrated, omnichannel relationship with the brands they shop and purchase. This can only be delivered through a strategic use of technology, both back and front-end. 

As we evolve our industry and business models, we need to keep in mind that we are in the business of solving problems for our clients, not simply building campaigns or content. We need to fully know the capabilities of our toolbox in terms of human capital and technology. Having highly talented creatives and strategists develop fleeting content over and over is not a good use of resources. We can do better. 

What do you think?