It’s an age-old decision point in marketing — work with a range of specialized agencies, or find a full-service agency that can handle everything. In the last couple years, we’ve seen an ever-expanding tick-box approach to agency services. This decision point has only gotten more complicated.
In the late-90’s, I joined one of the first digital agencies in the Bay Area. We built websites, mainly for travel companies like Disney and Starwood. We were specialists and we were good at it. Then we got acquired along with 30 or so other specialist agencies and rolled-up into one big one-stop shop.
Suddenly, our new, big agency offered everything from brand identity design to consulting to advertising for every conceivable type of company. It was total chaos. I remember going to a meeting with a client to talk about an integrated plan and meeting other groups from my own company for the first time in the client’s reception area.
I learned to be wary of agencies that claim to do everything. In my experience on the client and agency sides, few agencies are capable to doing all of those things well, particularly for emerging technologies.
Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, working with a whole host of specialist, niche agencies can be a challenge. Specialist agencies tend to focus too much on their own disciplines and miss the big picture. Cobbling the work into one cohesive, fully integrated campaign can be hard. From the perspective of the consumer, everything should feel like it’s coming from one brand.
There has never been a better time to be a client, with a whole host of agency options. But it can also be overwhelming to figure out the model that’s right for a particular brand. I’d love to hear your experiences navigating this decision.