Wayne Blodwell: Are you an agency or are you a consultancy? Does anyone care?

Wayne Blodwell, Founder and CEO, The Programmatic Advisory, is one the most knowledgeable and influential figures in the programmatic industry and is NDA’s monthly columnist.

It’s been well documented that the delineation of responsibilities between consultancies and agencies are increasingly difficult to determine.

Consultancies are looking to extend their boardroom power beyond systems integration and business strategy into media execution and operations, whilst agencies are looking to move up the brand servicing priority ladder to become more strategic.

What we’ve seen is a rise of consultancies come agencies, and agencies come consultancies. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how some of these companies describe themselves:

Accenture interactive – We are the Experience Agency, a new breed of agency designed from the ground up to empower clients to own experience from start to finish

Brainlabs – The smartest digital marketing agency on the planet

Group M – The world’s leading media investment group

Infectious Media – Positively different digital marketing

Mighty Hive – We empower brands and agencies to take control of their digital futures

I find company positioning fascinating in service-based industries. The above highlights how companies are leading with smarts, scale and innovation. All very different approaches but with a relatively similar service base.

I’ve never had a problem with consultancies or agencies extending their capabilities to add value for their clients, but I do have a problem whereby the revenue models are unclear, non-transparent and where recommendations are conflicted (i.e not selected in conjunction with the client’s decision making). Hopefully parties who are doing both are bringing their clients into the decision making. For example, if you are a massive Google reseller, your client should be aware of the revenue you make form this deal.

So what can we expect in the coming months and years?

Continued proliferation of these models. Agencies scale quicker because of the breadth of responsibility they will own, but consultancies are more strategic and act as an excellent front door into revenue opportunity.

The top tier consultancies will not be able to execute as well in media planning/buying/selling as an agency holding group for quite a few years (the task at hand is massively under-estimated) and agencies will not become as strategic as some of the top tier consultancies for years to come. Businesses will start to find their swim lanes and ideal clients in this new world and double down their focus areas.

All of these parties are fighting for talent, the true differentiator in the media industry but the one which is hardest to quantify at pitch stage. Buying scale diminishes in importance (unless a brand or agency has a fascination with money back in their bank), and skills rule. The way it always should have been.

2020 will be fascinating to see this play out. Expect lots of noise, a bit of action, but ultimately a settling of who owns what for a brand.

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