A battle of ideas

Agency structures are a hot topic. Essentially the debate is between the Y axis of the vertically integrated media specialist – one skill, all channels, and the X axis of the horizontally integrated agency – all skills, all channels and the third way of the all skills, one channel (most often digital) specialist.The fact is that all skills, all channels (the X axis) would appear to be right on any reasonable, if theoretical, evaluation but the truth is that certain managers in those environments threw away their chance for enduring domination by a depressingly hierarchical view of agency functions from which they will never recover. Of course if it is right in theory then the customer must ultimately suffer from any alternative execution as it is by any definition sub-optimal. Of course we do our best to even things out. As the biggest Y axis play in town our speech is about agnosticism between channels, its about the transfer of value from buyer to seller, it’s about focus, about leverage and, of course, playing nice with the creative community. The big third way players are holed below the waterline; ‘the answer’s digital, now what’s the question’  can’t be reasonable or sustainable and only solves half the problem of the constant search for expertise and context. The real dilemma is that the question is irresolvable while all the enterprises concerned insist in pursuing their current incarnations.The truth is that we all have to change and all have to recognize that we can’t be everything to everyone. Interestingly the re-creation of the full service model with media as its center of gravity is both tempting and ultimately futile as it combines corporate activities like budget allocation and portfolio management with boutique activities like creativity itself. No one has yet devised a mechanism to manage and arbitrate these skills in a single enterprise and a subtle shift of power won’t help. 2008 is time to invent the next new thing and my guess is that real structural change is required in a world where it’s only great to be Google.  

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