Ad agencies are in a state of war

By Dan Scott, CEO Lelex Prime

An arms race is happening right now across the globe. The winners of which will be chosen in the next few years. There are new players, new tools, new ways to manage data, ad blocking and privacy laws. Plug in a shifting culture of subscription based media without any ad inventory at all and you have a perfect storm.

More and more Brands are taking control of their own digital ads with programmatic tools. Consultancies are gobbling up budgets to the tune of billions. Ad Age recently reported top consultancies like Deloitte and IBMx account for over $13 billion in marketing spend as of 2017. Directly competing and winning budgets that were once exclusively agencies.

This all seems pretty ominous if you look at those facts alone. Doom and gloom has been prognosticated for agencies before. Luckily for them they are run by innovators who have weathered the storm before and came out arguably stronger than ever.

Will creativity be the salvation?

A recent report estimated $10 billion of media business being under review at the start of 2018. The common theme being proposed by a large number of executives is that their CREATIVE will save them. They say creativity is hard to replicate, whether by employee talent or organizational culture. That seems a bit short sighted as the core tactic of salvation for a company at war.

In a battle field dominated by super creative humans using the same tools and techniques, one can’t rely on something as subjective as “creativity”. Unless you’ve found the next Michelangelo of today’s creative agency (and if you did congrats) then you’re likely on a pretty level playing field with the other great creative agencies.


Your teams can’t charge more, can’t work harder for more hours. They certainly can’t simply will themselves to be more creative.

Everyone has access to the same data.

Everyone has access to the same tools.

What unique weapons are you developing to survive? Many agencies are repackaging open source tools and sets of commoditized data with a pretty dashboard and calling that a weapon. Fools errand, you don’t win wars without true innovation.

Dedication to strategy as the ultimate weapon

Between the consultancies’ who specialize in strategy and the brands leaving agencies the common theme is STRATEGY.  Nearly 25% of Brand’s cite lack of quality access to research and data as the lone reason for attrition.

Developing an innovative culture that embraces research driven strategy should be at the core of every agency. It’s where market share is being lost and it will make your teams more creative. If your team knew in intimate detail all of the behaviors that drive a certain segment to engage in their content would they be more creative and focused? Would it deliver the results your clients need to see at their bottom line?

There are a host of research companies popping up these days. Most notably, the future will be dominated by machine learning and artificial intelligence firms that can parse and make sense of tremendous amounts of data. Our research indicates there will be a significant paradigm shift in the acceptances and ubiquity of this technology within the next few years.

That also means the terms underpinning this technology are a bit mysterious and even scary today. Those who embrace the most innovative and valuable forms of this research tech will reign supreme. It’s up to you to compare, test and invest in the winners.

In conclusion

I will leave you with this nugget from Marc Brownsteins’ quote in a recent AdAge article, “(a) smart agency will never stop looking ahead and embracing new ways of doing things. Change occurs so often in our business that if you take your eyes off the ball for a few months, you’ll find yourself behind.”

Agencies that maintain a competitive mindset and are relentless in their preparation, are shops that will win. In this case, it means becoming something you’re currently not, and that is risky. It’s also imperative for your success. Marc Brownstein. Marc Brownstein is president and CEO of Brownstein Group, Philadelphia.”

Lelex Prime is a Research & Technology company dedicated to utilizing an array of social sciences to move beyond the constraints of traditional “Data Science” and Market Research practices. Our mission is to deliver accurate behavioral insights tailored to the objectives of our clients. We accomplish this through the development of bespoke technology and research solutions.

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