Starting An Agency - Q&A 8/21

Who do you think would pose a bigger threat to creative agencies like ours. The Vice type? Edelman type? Sid Lee type? Mediamonks? Accenture? Media Arts? Dollar Shave Club? Red Bull? Ryan Reynolds?

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Here’s a not-super-fun fact that I picked up from reading another recent Fish post: last year, 90% of the frothy growth in digital went to two firms, neither of which are listed above. So while you randomly guess who those might be, I think the question really becomes « who’s best equipped to succeed against that competition for clients, dollars, and even the chance to deliver value? The perspective gets even more troubling when you realize them guys are actively working to disintermediate agencies from a big chunk of bread-and-butter business—how agencies have typically been able to afford the investment in creative showpieces—via AI/machine language iterated creative. Let’s reasonably assume they will succeed (see Chase and Persado), and then reframe the question yet again: which of the above models are able to stand a fighting chance when every project has to be both an economic and creative winner. My answer: any of the folks you mention actually could do, assuming they’re willing to break out of the model.-based mindset. To do that they will need to find ways to stay viable while delivering on the three building blocks of true value: brains (creative), smarts, (strategic), and agility (situational flexibility). To be sure, that’s not great for holding company structures or their vassals. But it presents equal challenges to all of us—regardless of whether our chosen road is a niche play (Vice and youth, Edelman and public affairs), consultancies, various flavors of in-house, media-first or what have you.

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I think all of them can produce great content in different ways. I don’t see them as a threat though. They’re all competitors. We’re all competing for people’s attention. I would include Netflix, Buzzfeed, Twitter, etc, on this list as well. It’s tough to be an ad nowadays. That’s why the best ads don’t look like ads.

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Unless, of course, they look exactly like ads and people talk about them for days. Native advertising’s advantage is supposed to be « doesn’t look like » and, mas e menos, they don’t. But not looking like an ad doesn’t make most of it any less forgettable.

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The consultants aka Accenture and independent creative agencies without huge overheads.

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