No –  this isn’t another article on the “New Integrated Digital Agency” or the Integrated Agency Model. In fact, it’s probably a return to the past. This “new breed of agency” may not be so “new” after all.

I’m looking back at the days when agencies were responsible for strategic thinking, playing a major role in forming and shaping a market, defining distribution channels, and for innovative thinking around how we grow our clients’ business. Not just delivering on a marketing brief. Back to a time when agencies were strategic partners with business at a board level– and more than just a delivery partner.

From order-takers to true strategic partners

The devolution of the agency from strategic thinkers down to brief takers is as much the fault of agencies themselves as it is of the market. We stopped thinking, stopped pushing back and simply did what we were told. Yes, there was innovation when new tools and ways of reaching and converting markets were introduced, but that deeply integrated strategic business thinking no longer seems to happen.

True strategic agencies need to understand business; they need to understand how financial gearing affects the business’ ability to respond to market demands. They need to recognize global market trends and local markets dynamics. They need to truly “get” the politics of the globe and local political movements to appreciate where our client markets are being affected and how we can respond.

Agencies need to examine operational constraints driven by production issues and bring to the table new market opportunities which fit the production environment. An understanding of business technology – not just communication technology – offers new opportunities to business, and how technology changes the service proposition.

Creating our client’s window to the world

Banks are a classic example of where agencies should have been deeply involved in developing the new way of thinking: the new way of delivering a service.  They should be the champions of the consumer experience. And no – you can’t just ask a consumer what they want – they didn’t know until you give them what they don’t want! Agencies should be driving the technology to deliver the customer experience, instead of the current situation where a technologist determines what a customer wants.

We should be the ones looking far into the future at consumer and environmental trends – mental and emotional psyche changes in market dynamics. As part of the team that steers the ship, it should be our job to “see the forest for the trees”, providing insights and opportunities for our clients to take advantage of.

Our responsibility is to create our clients’ window to the world through their brand, and then to sell their company products and service to clients/consumers. Agencies are really the biggest sales force available to a business, but we don’t like to think of ourselves this way.

Agencies should be moving closely into the terrain of Business Strategy companies – the likes of Cap Gemini and KPMG, but more agile. Less about the numbers and more about the opportunities. We should be partnering with the numbers guys to help turn the opportunities into reality, carrying the entrepreneurial spirit and vision to large organizations and helping monolithic juggernauts dream and recreate themselves. Our job is to help business challenge the barriers and limitations placed upon themselves over time.

Shaping the world we live in

Of course – I may be completely delusional and simply ready to be more than just an order taker and a creative factory!

Maybe I do want to help shape the world we live in through the organizations we partner with. Maybe instead of just doing what we’re told – I want us to do what we were born to do – Vision, Dream, Create and Make it a Reality.