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5 new agency trends for 2020

Chris Van Roey

The PitchPoint team went to London to observe the latest trends in the agency world. In 3 days’ time we met the management of 19 leading communication agencies and holdings*. We tried to understand the fundamental trends that will determine the world of communication and marketing in 2020. We received tons of interesting information. Our challenge was to find the common thread throughout all meetings and presentations. We’ve identified five key trends:

Creativity is back

For a while, it looked like the big-data pressure was pushing creativity aside. That seems like a thing of the past. Both on the agency side and on the brand side, creativity is back at the forefront. Creativity is no longer limited to communications, and is expanding to unambiguous brand experiences. Data becomes a means to guarantee relevant creativity and is not a holy grail in itself. Creative 'brand experiences' are the new mantra, in which budgets shift back from 'performance marketing' activities to 'brand-building' experiences.

Reintegration of media and creation

The separation of creation and media in the last century is increasingly seen as a historical mistake. Creativity and media are inextricably linked in many new touchpoints. It is therefore logical that different agencies should integrate media strategy, planning and purchasing again and offer them to brands as a total solution.

Technology 'inside'

The now somewhat old-fashioned word 'digital' has been definitively banned and exchanged for the term 'technology'. Instead of 'digital first' we now speak of 'technology enablers'. Technology as a means, not as an end in itself. Technology as a tool to optimise creativity. First party data, programmatic, artificial intelligence, voice recognition and a host of new techno-buzzwords are part of our daily marketing jargon.

Faster, better, cheaper

This motto, originally from Sir Martin Sorrell of S4 Capital, echoes throughout all agencies. It answers the question of advertisers who want more control today: agility, quality and price are the most important elements. Each agency tries, in its own way, to respond to these three criteria. A simplification of the processes and of the governance model is the starting point.

The hyper-personalized agency

The classic roster model was exchanged for an in-house model at various brands in previous years. But insourcing comes with its own drawbacks, including limited flexibility and a lack of creativity. In order to offer a solution to the above challenges, various agencies specialise in creating custom-made full-service agencies (including media) within the marketing department of the brands. They form a team with the company's marketers, sit physically with the client and work within the same P&L. However, the representative agency team remains on the agency's payroll. The new agency structure is proving to be successful and may be a blueprint for the 'communication agency of the future'.

Visiting nineteen agencies in three days is actually madness. It generates an abundance of information, and we may have lost a lot of detail. But it was the perfect way to identify trends and insights from 'big data'.

* Thanks to AdForum who introduced us in London at Accenture Interactive, Anomaly, BBDO, Dentsu, Electric Glue, Joint, M&C Saatchi, Merkle, Mullen Lowe, Oliver, Pablo, Quiet Storm, Rankin, S4 Capital, The & Partnership, Uncommon, VCCP, Wonderhood and WPP.

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