There’s been an awful lot of thinking recently from respected Big Thinkers in the Planning world about what the agency of the future might and/or will have to look like.
Neil recently wrote about the need to hire T-shaped people (who possess a strong vertical skill, but also have a broad empathy toward other skills and disciplines encountered in the business).
Amelia wrote back in January about her ‘agency and friends’ model (building a loose network of partners, developers and producers who can work alongside the core agency hub).
And a Major Planner posted something fairly recently about smarter, faster, more agile and responsive Planning that I commented on at the time but seems to have since gone AWOL.
My comment on the Major Planner’s post wasn’t received very warmly. It was something along the lines that all these ideas are very relevant for where we’re all…but to my mind they’re all also a new take on (and a new name for) stuff that’s been happening (at least round me) for quite a while.
I gained my Planning spurs at a series of Regional Integrated Agencies. They were largish by Outside London standards (up to 175 staff in one office) and did pretty much everything. Most started out years ago as pure advertising agencies but quickly added specialisms like DM and PR in order to survive.
So Planners trained Up North have always been able to plan for multi-channel campaigns. It was expected that you knew about promotional insurance, newshare, PR press days, why silver print was expensive and what CMS was.
You were also expected to be a decent qualitative researcher and an insightful and strategic Planner. In other words, you had to be T-shaped, with strong core planning skills while having a broad understanding of what everyone else in the agency did for a living and why.
The newer, smaller agencies up here mostly tried to do Integrated too, as (until very recently) that’s what many clients were interested in buying. So a lively freelance market of trusted ex agency employees and specialist suppliers sprung up to support the core agency teams.
And with quiet, Northern confidence, some of the agencies that did decide to stick to one thing behaved as if size was no barrier to greatness. In the 2000’s, some quite significant pieces of big brand multi million pound business were being run from agencies round here with a head count under 30.
But most agencies Up North rarely had massive budgets to play with – and rarely much time to work with either. Not for us the three month pitch or million pound production budget. So Planning had to be good, cheap and fast. I know it’s hard to manage more than two out of that three, but we tried our hardest.
It seems that up here, Up North they had the right idea. The agency of the future is undoubtedly going to consist of a tight core of smart, agile, strategic, T-shaped people who work in real time and rely on trusted partners to help them get the job done.
So what I suppose I’m saying is that there’s probably no such thing as an entirely new idea…but there are certainly some great, fresh angles on old ideas flying about at the moment.