Polarizing views seem to dictate many aspects of our lives today, but I think, as marketers, we can all agree on one thing: our industry is evolving faster now than we ever could have imagined.
From consultancies further encroaching on agency territory, on a mission to build a new agency model, to brands bringing more marketing duties in-house, to new direct-to-consumer brands popping up every day – the space for agencies to thrive (and survive) is shrinking. Agencies find themselves hard-pressed to rethink their roles in the marketing ecosystem—but, just as importantly, they also need to rethink the roles within their four walls.
What type of talent and leadership is needed to help agencies stand out and deliver real value to clients today? What new jobs are necessary for an agency to keep its integrity and survive this encroachment?
It’s time to start answering these questions, even if we don’t know what the world will be like in 2025. Our industry is continually changing, affecting how clients go to market and how brands and agencies work together. But one thing that will never change is that marketing, at its core, is about understanding human beings. Which brings us to our first new leadership role.
The Chief Storyteller. The art of storytelling will continue to be an integral function of agencies, but will be different from the traditional creative lane we’re used to swimming in.
Practically every project or pitch finds us collaborating with a sister agency or another outside partner. Brands have more and more partners these days – specialists in social, data, CRM, consultants, production and public relations coming together, integrating their areas of expertise to deliver one solution. Everyone comes from a different heritage and brings a unique perspective. What we don’t have, but need, is one person to bring it all together—someone to own the articulation of the overall story. Traditionally, this would have been the strategist at the agency but with so many new players in the mix, bringing different pieces to the puzzle, we need a synthesizer. This person could weave together the work and ideas of all the specialized agencies and partners to tell one, cohesive customer-driven story.
Technology is another area of the agency talent pool that needs some refining. Technology is weaved into every job today in some form, but agencies need someone that is truly devoted to what’s next, what’s emerging: a revamped Chief Technology Officer. I think we should replace the CTO with the CTIO, the Chief Technology and Integration Officer.
With so much technology in the market – and new systems and products developed everyday – staying up to speed with emerging technology and what’s on the horizon is a full-time job in and of itself. Many agencies end up tapping specialized partners to fill this role, yet this is a role that agencies should own. Agencies should take the lead, being the integrator and enabler of client technology to accelerate customer-driven solutions at scale.
The CTIO would help clients integrate emerging technology and new solutions into their offering and company. This would be more about enablement and implementation.
Hand in hand with technology comes the need for a better understanding and use of data, so let’s hire more Performance Analysts. This position would ensure that performance marketing is at the core and forefront of everything agencies do. With the copious amounts of data available to marketers, there is a growing need for agencies to consolidate all their data to be able to review every day and continuously optimize their work.
As these new roles emerge, will current leadership roles and positions become obsolete in the next decade?
It’s too early to say just yet, but I do know that the hierarchy at agencies will need to change. With too many levels and positions slowing us down, agencies need to flatten out. Clients, today, need to operate quickly. And with a flatter structure, the work gets done faster. As a result, the definition of today’s "traditional agency roles" will need to evolve.
We’ll need more Project Managers and Producers, as account management roles become redefined. There will always be a need to manage client communication and build relationships, but the fact is clients are busy engaging more partners (as AORs go to the wayside) and dealing with massive transformation on their end. Any time spent with the client needs to drive value and offer solutions to their marketing challenges. Account managers now need to play the role of adviser.
Putting more focus on the results will naturally build our relationships.
A credo that I’ve always lived by is that good talent can come from anywhere. The more diverse the experience and perspective the better. We need to be vigilant and open minded when it comes to hiring and where we pull talent from. And we need to be more focused on the experience we’re creating for the humans at the other end of our marketing.
Marco Scognamiglio is the global CEO of Rapp.