Content agencies expanding into brand strategy. Consulting companies like Deloitte and Accenture muscling in on creative pitches. Creative agencies pitching for media planning. Tech firms like Google, Facebook  and Buzzfeed creating their own in-house content studios and brand agencies.

It seems like every company in the marketing brain-for-hire space is choosing to expand offerings rather than focus on doing one thing really well. At Ogilvy where I work, our biggest client (IBM) is developing capabilities which appear quite similar to our own.

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Does going broad make sense?

From a growth point of view, the opportunity is obvious. Many of Ogilvy’s clients are massive corporations with a long list of agencies for different specializations. Ogilvy can easily grow (and maybe even save the client money) by consolidating media, analytics, digital, brand, UX, content, service design, and whatever else in one place.

Having everyone in one place also produces more integrated work. I’ve personally enjoyed being able to walk downstairs and meet with the media team for their input into my comms plan.

And it’s good if you’re an agency executive dealing with an uncertain future. If you have every specialty in the house, you’re covered if brand advertising becomes less important and digital engagement more important.

Plus, employees (theoretically) have more disciplines to move into within the same firm if that company handles everything.

But..

I wonder if all this broadening will dilute the quality of work. When an agency (or consulting firm or production studio) claims they offer a service they aren’t traditionally known for, I’m skeptical of them.

A client hires you for skills they do not have in-house. Specific skills. An agency (or consulting firm or production studio) is supposed to be really good at nurturing talent for that specific skill-set. But short term profit needs often mean overworking employees and pitching for skill-sets not central to the business.

In many cases it makes sense to expand. If you do someone’s brand strategy, you might also be best suited for their social media. But as agencies become jacks of all trades (with supposedly very specialized knives inside) are they really diluting themselves? How are they training and nurturing talent to be really good at that one thing if they handle everything?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a comeback from specialized agencies. Firms that devote time and money training their employees for one specific skillset. These small companies might be more expensive. They might not integrate as easily. But they could be worth the price when you see the quality work. And I bet they are the companies that drive innovation in specific fields.

(Says someone who works in a huge agency that does everything)

 

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