The elephant in the room: Can agencies be a part Agency 2.0?


Jonathan Mac Donald who is a very clued on guy twittered about the Agency 2.0 Model a presentation from Giles Rhys Jones of Ogilvy

The presentation is interesting .. And Ogilvy is doing some interesting work in this space more than most agencies – but I can’t help but think if it is ignoring the Elephant in the room .. Which is ..

Can agencies be a part Agency 2.0? I.e. The future of Agencies (Agency 2.0) may be out of the hands of the Agencies themselves

To explain:

Much of what the presentation talks is not new .. And most people accept these ideas today(users creating content, crowdsouricg etc etc).

However, when it comes to agencies .. We have a different question ..

To take a step back: There are three constituencies:

a) The advertisers

b) The agencies who manage the advertising dollars and

c) The media (ex TV).

This relationship worked well when TV ads were sold based on simple TV metrics(consumption based! i.e. users passively consume content). The agencies ‘managed’ the total advertising budget on behalf of the client which could span to a number of media like TV, Billboards etc. Mostly, it was TV though. All was measurable and reportable for the advertiser.

This works nicely … and more importantly has a clear role for the agency(a one stop shop that can manage deliver a quantifiable response to the campaign)

In the Web 2.0 world, things change because the advertiser need not go to the agency.

Many web based social networks including Glam media, FM publishing etc have advertising platforms and a sales force. As will telecoms networks over time.

More importantly – these social networks control the data, interact with the users and can provide quantifiable results. In the new world, the agency neither controls the data nor does it have a direct relationship with the users.

For instance – networks like FM publishing are taking on the role of the agency by interacting directly with advertisers, providing results based advertising through their blog networks

The traditional agency has no such advantage since they have no network – and by extension no access to data and metrics.

Clients have a choice.

They an just as easily go to FM publishing or GLAM as they can go to an agency

In a recession, I believe that there will be a tendency to go where the audience is .. And many of the Web based networks interact with their audience directly

Hence, the question ..

Can agencies be a part Agency 2.0? I.e. The future of Agencies (Agency 2.0) may be out of the hands of the Agencies themselves

On the other side of the fence, the media platforms (especially TV) are also stuck in their own time warp – see I don’t need two government funded TV channels – I need a wikipedia button on my Sky remote ..

To conclude, It is easier to frame a question from the perspective of the status Quo (Agency 2.0 vs. Agency 1.0) – when a more disruptive question would be to question the existence of the status quo itself ..

Let us not lament the change in the status quo. The creation of the existing framework is often a result of an older power struggle which has played out – and the results of which are now accepted. Look at the map of Africa and see how ‘geometric’ the boundaries between Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Mali etc are. Almost looks like someone drew a line on a map and created them – with no regard to the people who lived there i.e. the farmer who lived in one village may find as a result of an artificial ‘line on the map’ that he needs a visa to draw water from a well because it is now in a different country!

So, the status quo is often artificial – and more importantly may not exist in future – especially a recession driven future ..

That’s why I ask very basic questions like .. The future of Agencies (Agency 2.0) may be out of the hands of the Agencies themselves .. which is the proverbial elephant in the room that is not being addressed in a discussion of Agency 2.0 when agencies try to define their future.


  1. jMac says:

    I agree with your points.
    The presentation is not intending to discuss whether agencies are valid as an entity but instead intends to show ways in which progression could be apparent in instances where clients wish to maintain a relationship and an agency has the will to transform.
    Whether or not either variable is likely is not the subject of that particular presentation although a valid conversation nonetheless.
    We should be careful not to confuse points of view with constructive suggestion. Either way round.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Jonathan. Maybe I expected something more like ‘O Reilly Web 2.0′ document when I saw a title like ‘Agency 2.0′ but its still useful none the less. I think there is however a need to look at the broader – more disruptive questions I have raised. I see the same thinking over and over again – and as I said, today its mostly the norm. Lets hope someone else takes this discussion up elsewhere and builds up on it. kind rgds Ajit