The future of digital agencies

Kamil Skramusky
Kamil Skramusky

Have you built a successful digital agency? You should be already thinking about what to do differently in order to survive in the future. The only certainty is change, and we’ve written up 4 trends about the future and the changes of the agency business.

1. Consulting companies buy digital agencies

Traditional consulting corporations such as Delloite, Accenture, IBM, KPMG, McKinsey and PwC have originally worked on large scale IT projects. Today, these projects are becoming more and more focused on customer experience.

“How can we make sure that our customers will use our services as easily as they use Uber?”

The skills related to customer experience have been owned by agencies for the past 15 years, and now clients demand them from consulting companies. It’s logical then that these keep acquiring digital agencies like wildfire. Deloitte, for example, has bought 5 agencies during only the past two years, increasing its world-wide turnover by $3.1 million.

This is related to the fact that people experienced in digital marketing are moving to high-profile management positions, and that they are well aware of how technologies keep changing the way they do business.

All of these acquisitions hit the same wall, however: they’re not buying machines, they’re buying people — and that results in a clash of cultures and values of two completely disparate company DNAs, similar to when large advertising agencies were buying smaller ones “to know the digital”. That’s why it’s important that these acquired agencies always have the space to “be themselves”.

2. Agencies take responsibility for client sales

Not so long ago, all clients wanted were the most creative solutions possible. Those ablest creatives were on the top and nobody really cared for what the results were. However, this is changing very quickly, and clients now much more often consider agencies responsible for the results of their campaigns.

As a result, the most successful agencies will be those which can make the best use of data to create smart and targeted marketing, i.e. campaigns that will be efficient and based on the combination of creative strategy and data.

Agencies of the future don’t only need great designers, creatives and copywriters, but also people with a deep understanding of analytics, research and the media. They won’t get by without technologies to report sales results in real time either. All of this will have a great impact on the way agencies are rewarded for their work.

3. The value and purpose of agencies are changing

The purpose of the agencies of the future is not to become great in executive work, but to tackle real and often unique problems of their clients. That’s why they should never talk about what they do, but rather what problems they solve. Today, a trade is no more than a commodity that can be bought cheaper than ever before and to become successful, an agency will need to be more than a team of great tradesmen.

If a client needs a creative idea, they can easily outsource it through platforms like What’s more, automation is estimated to deprive 25% people in the advertising industry of their jobs in 10 years. Soon we won’t be able to recognize whether an article was written by a person or a machine.

The future is in partnership. Agencies of the future will be built around the client and their customers, not around brands or communication channels. Their primary purpose will be to have a detailed insight into the problems and opportunities of their clients.

That’s why the agencies of the future are called “networks of talents”. They build adaptive teams assembled for a specific purpose. These teams are multidisciplinary and combine the expertise of designers, data scientists, but also sociologists or anthropologists.

4. Facebook will take work from agencies

It’s rather surprising that Facebook hasn’t yet created its own agency, as by utilizing the user data it owns, it would definitely be able to bring its clients much more value in their campaign results.

However, agencies still decide where the money goes, which is why Facebook cooperates rather than fights with them. It trains them, certifies them and builds their expertise. It’s a sleeping giant, though: its Facebook Creative Shop now employs approximately 250 people from 40 countries and helps the SMB segment create brand campaigns. They’re already cooperating with the biggest advertisers directly, and it’s clear that this trend will only continue.

This is also related to the future fights for employees that will ensue between agencies and technological companies like Facebook or Google, as the financial rewards these can offer cannot be rivaled.

This is the first from a series of articles about the future of agencies

It’s an exciting topic that we’re looking to investigate in detail.

“Did you know that the world’s biggest digital agency is the IBM iX, employing 10.000 people, of which 1.000 are designers in 25 offices all around the world?”

Do you know that the large agencies will need to behave like small ones, as the next big thing only has a chance to be born in small teams? That’s why Instagram was designed by a bunch of 12 people and not by Kodak with 300.000 employees.

The upcoming articles will dive deeper into the individual trends listed above, and we’ll ask agency owners what they think and how they perceive their own future. We’ll look at the history a bit too, to show you how the Hollywood film studios were undergoing a similar change in the 1930s. The history repeats itself — and we should learn from it.