Is the advertising agency dying? An industry event over two days at Dublin’s RDS, “The Future” had this as a central question. Technology develops quicker than advertising agencies evolve, so it’s a worthwhile question, and one which leaders speaking at November’s event are faced with every day, in the current climate. Savvy leaders will invent what the future is, so I was interested to attend for their thoughts.

Before we delve into the predictions for advertising beyond 2017, it’s important that we look at the time preceding whatever time you want to call what the future is.

The Past

advertising executive

At the event, I was reminded of the advertising model employed by Coca-Cola (a deep, dark and long forgotten memory of mine!). That is; it has a 70/20/10 model – a nice twist on the 80/20 rule – something from the past which still has relevance in the present and likely; the future.

Coca-Cola spend its budget on mostly old media. Outdoor advertising, experiential, and print media is the order of the day. Why? Well, because it works for them! Only 20 percent of the overall budget is spent on new media and ten percent is spent on advertising initiatives that have never been used before by the company.

Great, right? Even better is that the time spent by Coca-Cola on these initiatives is split 50-50 between old and new. That’s a model to work towards, and as underlined by Alan Cox (Core Media) points to a more full agency-wide “solution” for advertising, rather than specialisms.

So, if an agency is all about digital (or branding, for example), it is missing out on a huge amount of business/eyeballs.

This harks back to a full-service model in place before the onset of the content cascade made possible by platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and others. It was a time of more innocence (and ease) where one creative idea only had a few platforms to advertise on (print, TV and radio) and one which Core Media is returning to, it’s CEO told the audience.

Indeed, a much smaller group than Core Media, the Hudson Bec Group  also enthused this one solution / full-service model with clients like Google availing of the service currently. The agency name even underlines this. It is called “anyways”. While client like Google will open the door for more client to come aboard, the finding of that original client was done through a network of collaborators, built up by Hudson Bec in its other arm, it’s nice that. Maybe more collaboration is the way forward, and we can look to the past while we shape what the future is?



Up until the event starting on Friday 3rd  November, the present and what the near future is, have largely been dictated to us marketers by regulation, the economic outlook and the decisions of the big players (Google and Facebook, for instance – media owners). It’s unlikely that the future is something different than an amalgamation of circumstances from the same sources. Unlikely, but not impossible. That said, change is happening all around. An up-to-date internet minute looks like this image below from Platform13 (yet another collaboration-based agency).

an internet minute

It’s clear though that the present for ad agencies is troubled. Consultancies such as Deloitte and Accenture are moving in on the business in advertising, more and more. This is no less underlined in a recent report by econsultancy.

The very fact that these management consultancies are doing so well on lists such as the one shown in the image here underlines the initial point made in Alan Cox’s opening address around having many services under one roof, integrated. Maybe the model of buying up smaller agencies to offer the services more and more required by modern clients makes sense? Ask Accenture and they will likely say that it does.

The appetite for joining a larger firm seems to be there too. Dublin’s Boys and Girls agency have done just that in recent times by joining a network. On joining a consultancy firm, Boys and Girls chief Patrick Meade said words to the effect that consultancies have been able to make business work for their clients and themselves for a long time and that we as an industry should view the involvement of consultancies in our business as a good thing, a vote of confidence.


The Future is …

What emerges from the event around what the future is for ad agencies is the advent and adoption of “design thinking” and a culture of collaboration and creativity. In fact, creativity is being fostered by the multiple platforms to advertise with. To offer a quote from one speaker: “The World is forcing us to be more creative”.


Sticking out with a creative idea in the advertising avalanche is always rewarded. If we see our industry as a creative industry, and use that as our strength, we can battle the bots and stay on top. More creative collaboration though needs to exist to foster trust and to solve problems for clients.

Got a question? Be sure to get in touch for more.