I always like to take a mental inventory of the things I take away from the iMedia Summits after I get back. Here are some of the takeaways from the Agency Summit in Austin: Buyers and Sellers Are Competing for the Same Strategic Role - It seemed like when we were discussing process, there were still a lot of the same age-old complaints about the inability of publishers to get big ideas to the advertisers. There was also a mood of increased reliance on publishers to bring ideas to the table, while agencies played the role of evaluating those ideas. That sort of thing doesn't happen here, but it seems to be happening at a lot of other agencies - they're playing the role of aggregator of opportunities, but not the role of strategic partner as well as they should be. Couple this mood with the many comments I heard from publishers about how they want to be seen as strategic partners by advertisers, and how they're going right to clients in order to accomplish that, and it sums up to agencies giving up that strategic role if they continue down the path they're on.
Agency People Are Generally More Tactical Than Strategic - I got this sense from talking to agency people at the conference. Whether we were just chilling at a cocktail party or in a heavy discussion at a roundtable, it seemed that agency people were really good at answering questions like "How do you track interactions in a Flash banner?" but not so great at things like "How do you prove the value of social media to your clients?" It gave me a sense that agencies were losing track of the strategic picture. It could also be that agencies are sending lower-level folks these days.
Conflicts of Interest Don't Matter Much Sometimes - It used to be a cardinal rule: Giving media buying advice while being a media seller was a fundamental conflict of interest.Ã‚Â It still is.Ã‚Â Many advertisers don't seem to care much anymore.Ã‚Â They're taking advice and recommendations from wherever they can get it these days.Ã‚Â Lots of clients still follow the old rules, but many don't.
In short, I think the writing is on the wall for the agency business.Ã‚Â Of course, people have been saying this for years, but I never got the sense until now that agencies were losing their grip on the role of managing all of a client's advertising activity.
It's clear that, in order to preserve their value to advertisers, agencies have to cling to a strategic role and never let go of it.Ã‚Â I get the sense that many of the agencies out there are stuck in the tactical weeds and wouldn't know strategy if it walked up and bit them on the ass.Ã‚Â Of course, that's just my opinion.