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Why it’s time to re-energise the agency model based on the best of the gig economy

Robots answer emails, emojis are a thing, and someone called Alexa squats in a tube in my kitchen. Data got big and a 90’s garage start-up rules the world. What a time to be alive.

Digital is skin-deep
Everything has been touched by digital. You might say that no industries have felt the switchover like marketing and PR. But that would be utter fallacy. In many ways, digital's impact on our industries has been cosmetic at best. Yes, the coalface has been revolutionised – comms are faster, distribution is ludicrously fragmented and our mechanisms have multiplied like amoeba.

Foundations remain unchanged
But since digital's dawn, the philosophies underpinning, guiding and governing our industries have barely flickered. In 2018, much like in 1988, a typical client-agency relationship goes something like this: agency answers a brief; goes to tender; pitches; crosses fingers. If the agency wins, drinks are had. Come the legal bit, the agency vies to get minimum terms and exclusivity in. And the client’s procurement team squeezes every ounce of creative opportunity out …

Papers are signed. We're off and running. Cue inertia. A limited work schedule begins and soon a comfort zone is found. The client probably files spend under a big umbrella header; no itemised bill or breakdown.

Not unlike a real-life marriage, the fizzle and creativity soon plateaus. The KPIs vibrate. Cue several years of tepid contentedness.

Older isn’t wiser
I don't mean to sound too cynical. I’ve sat on both sides of the client-agency divide and I know well that the old paradigm still has its place. Old-school retainers offer consistency, stability and security for client and agency alike. Let's never underestimate the value of a comfort level.

But it's not a stretch to say that we lack agility, oomph and options in a changing socioeconomic climate.

New agency model
For me, the time is right for something new: it's time to re-energise the foundations of our industry with a new agency model that's based on on-demand and the best of the gig economy. It's the right tonic for an era of cultural flux, increased accountability, not to mention the demographic about to grab the reigns of control.

Millennials (first and only mention, honest) are slowly moving into powerful positions at brands and agencies alike. It stands to reason that their influence will demand that the industry change its record and dance to a different tune.

Younger people have been reared on nownership. They've matured in the sharing economy and their value system doesn't align with exclusivity; with commitment; with limits; with rigidity. The status quo isn't a natural fit for a generation who taxi with Uber and believe in convenience, choice, freedom, speed and control.

Our new agency model has gig-economy thinking baked into the foundations. Big or small, traditional or custom, we build bespoke teams from a deep pool of top independent  agency talent, cherry picking specialists to fit OD client briefs without spillage or waste.

Because I can see a day when young brand chiefs wholeheartedly reject the cookie-cutter approach and demand a service that's up-to-the-minute in its spirit; not just in its mechanics.

Written by Jemima Bird, founder of agency collective Hello Finch, former one-time Brand Director and one-time CMO

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