The Future of Brand and Agency Relationships

November 25, 2020

I think we need to talk….

Why and how the agency/ client relationship will change in the 2020’s

The marketing landscape has been buffeted by unprecedented upheaval this year. That’s hardly breaking news. What is, though, is the ability to see beyond the immediate noise to understand how agencies and brands can survive and thrive together over the next decade. 

And that’s what our latest report for the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) reveals. 

Launched today at the IPA’s Business Growth Conference, The Future of Brand and Agency Relationships tells the industry that, to optimise success, agencies will need to understand five key business models. And, crucially, the changing consumer behaviours which will drive those models.

This third iteration of the Report helps agencies see further than the current flux to how the consumer and industry landscape will evolve during the 2020s. 

An age of empowered expectancy

Consumers are set to become even louder, more active and empowered brand stakeholders. And their expectations for their brand interactions will be equally strident.  Our Report identified five key drivers for this shifting horizon:

Always and Everywhere – brand ubiquity to meet consumer centricity 

Brand presence will need to be ‘always on’, across all online channels to achieve genuine customer centricity over the next decade. That means branded campaigns on social media must be directly shoppable, e-sports advertising will grow into an established channel in its own right, and marcoms will need to become more embedded within immersive spaces and facilitate virtual influencer strategies.

Data Value Exchange – understanding the quid pro quo

To sustain a healthy data relationship with customers and ensure optimised access to future consumer intelligence, brands will need to ensure consumers understand and feel comfortable about the role of data exchange in the future marketing eco-system. 

The Empathetic Brand – actively participating in social issues 

Brands are now expected to consider all social issues in their commercial planning. The pandemic has only energised the need to become an active brand participant in key issues, not a passive bystander. 

Radical Transparency – open, honest communication

In an age of fake news and mistrust in institutions, brands will need to build trust through messaging and evidence, and not shy away from issues that are important to consumers like the environment or diversity. 

Brand Partners – trusted consumer companions 

Trusted brand partners will increasingly help consumers in weathering economic hardship or in reducing decision fatigue, supporting product discovery and purchasing choices. 

But which agency/ client relationships will best meet the new consumer needs?

Our five relationship models work across a sliding scale of integration – from one agency meeting all the clients’ needs, to a coalition approach, a combination of in-house client services and external agency services or fully in-house. Each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses and varying degrees of growth potential. And they’re best viewed as sitting on a pendulum rather than as a static spectrum, changing across campaigns, geographies and business areas. Agility across agency business operations, talent and internal processes will be key. 

Industry experts interviewed for the report are divided on the agency role within this new landscape. Should a single agency have the remit and capability to help brands respond to their challenges? Or should they focus and specialise on one specific marketing function? Which model will best serve agency and client needs in an increasingly complex environment? 

We can help answer those questions. Please get in touch if you want to explore which models will best serve your needs in the years ahead and how you can effectively innovate to champion such models.   

Josh McBain

Written by Josh McBain

Josh McBain is Consultancy Director at Foresight Factory. He leads a team of consultants and client analysts who specialize in the design, delivery and communication of strategic consultancy projects. He has a proven track record of producing consultancy projects that have driven commercial growth, created extensive global media buzz and influenced government policy.

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