The Risk of the Customized Agency

And here it is: another ‘customized agency’

It’s been in the press for a while, but today it got some more exposure. ThyssenKrupp and Thjnk (where I’ve worked before moving to Amsterdam) are launching a new agency, a customized agency. Which seems to be the latest rage among bigger brands, not only in Germany (McDonald’s, Seat, to name a few.)

I do get that it’s an interesting concept and I’m curious to see how it works out long-term. There’s some obvious risks. One of them pointed out by Marc Recker on Twitter: the clash of different cultures.

Ad agencies and (industrial) corporations – just the sound of it, I can imagine, could make a creative shiver (and, vice versa, the manager on the other side.) But, naively, I believe this can be worked out.

There’s another risk that I’m really curious to see how this can be overcome. Among an ad agency’s most valuable offering is their outside perspective onto a brand’s business challenges. Creating an in-house ad agency will inevitably kill this added value. Which means this in-house offering needs to implement mechanisms to maintain this unbiased, fresh perspective to add value. Otherwise, after a while (I’d assume two years), the brand will start looking for new perspective outside their in-house/customized agency.

What sounds like a great idea for an agency to secure clients for a longer term and for a brand to get exclusive access to brilliant creatives, feels, in reality, like a potentially bad idea for both partners: rather than getting the best of two worlds you get the worst. You create a mono-culture within an agency that normally thrives on diversity and the permeability between brands, projects, teams, and ideas. This is what attracts great creative problem solvers (the prospect of working on diverse problems) which in turn is what attracts great brands.

It will be interesting to see how these new-ish agency models will succeed.


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