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The agency model of the future

The classic agency model is under pressure. The growing number of customized agencies or the increasing shareholdings of consultancies such as Accenture or Deloitte in well-known agencies are impressive proof of this change. For an article in the blog of the German Association of Communication Agencies (GWA), Sven Korhummel, cyperfection managing director, explains why it is necessary for agencies in these times to strategically align themselves in the direction of trusted advisors:

Sven Korhummel
30. August 2019
Reading time: 5 min


In times of digital change, technologies that are entering the market ever faster, and constantly changing customer behavior, companies need reliable partners at eye level who can accompany them on their way in the long term. However, many agency decision-makers are reaching their limits with the new plethora of challenges. In the race for the big budgets and the most exciting projects, the air is getting thin. It is therefore high time for agencies to position themselves as strong, strategic partners of companies, who are not only strong in implementation and creatively work through briefings, but also develop value-creating solutions with a genuine understanding of business and are thus perceived as trusted advisors to their customers.

The new role of agencies

Once upon a time, the agency was a service provider entrusted with the implementation of individual creative measures or with developing situational solutions to problems on behalf of its clients. This "fulfiller" role alone is no longer a guarantee of success: it does not follow a long-term strategy and only helps clients to a limited extent to master current and, above all, future business challenges.

It is high time for agencies to reinvent themselves. Agencies with long-standing business relationships with their clients can score points here - and use this knowledge to generate new business. After all, they know their business partners and their ecosystem inside out and have in-depth market and industry knowledge. This knowledge enables agencies to proactively evolve from being mere "briefing recipients" and position themselves as trusted advisors. The key is to use the agency's own business insights in a way that adds value for the customer and also to convince with strategic brand management expertise, creative communications know-how and digital implementation competence. In short, agencies should position themselves in such a way that they can identify business-relevant trends early on, recognize problem areas, and develop creative business solutions.

Real partnership in view

However, the transformation into a trusted advisor can only succeed if agencies continuously stay on the ball with their customers. Intensive discussions and regular workshops are tried-and-tested means of developing an even deeper understanding of customer goals, market environments and problems. However, this also requires the courage to contradict the customer and to contribute one's own, experience-based ideas. This is essential: consultants only act convincingly if they themselves stand behind the strategies and measures they present one hundred percent and can also back them up with hard data. One or the other customer will not always like this. But agency heads with a strong attitude can cope with that. Because they know that only mutual trust leads to genuine partnerships that are worthwhile for both sides in the long term.

This also means that the customer must be able to rely on the agency not maximizing profits at his expense - selling agency services at any price is the wrong approach. If customers get the impression that the agency is exploiting the trust they have placed in it, the relationship is permanently damaged - and word of this can spread throughout the industry and have serious repercussions. Therefore, a restrained agency strategy makes sense in many cases.

Due to their competencies and business know-how, agencies can be genuine strategic partners in the transformation of their customers. But they must also convince their customers of this. If they then score points with the agency pound of creativity, nothing stands in the way of a long and mutually fruitful partnership.