Everyone keeps remarking that the current agency model is broken. But, they never propose a new one.
So here goes.
First let's look at the current model. It goes something like this:
(Click to embiggen)
For simplicity, I've left many people out, including Production, Reception, Security, I.T., U.X., Executive Assistance, Catering, and Technologists. Doesn't mean they're not important. They are. They're just not departments I have a new structure for.
And I'm not meaning to call out any particular type of agency here. I'm meaning to refer to 'traditional' agencies, digital agencies, integrated agencies, above-the-line, below-the-line, through-the-line, never-heard-of-the-line... everybody.
Also, though I've put Traffic at the bottom, I don't mean to say they're the least important. I would love to show them permeating the whole system - like the oil in an engine - but I just don't know how to draw that.
Now, here are three alternative models:
Alt. Model 1: 'The BBH'
This is the model that was put into place at BBH in London, about three years ago.
The thinking behind it was that clients come to agencies for great creative, and great strategy. They don't come for 'great account handling'. (N.B. their words not mine). Therefore Account Handling becomes more of a support function, with the role of Traffic subsumed within it, which saves a little money.
The crucial 'Team Director' role needs an extremely talented, super-organised person, but they could potentially come from a Traffic background, and may not need to be as well-paid as the top Suits previously were.
However, this is not a cheaper model overall, since as you can see, the savings are ploughed into hiring extra Planners. The goal of this model isn't to cut costs, but to increase quality (clients are theoretically receiving more of the expertise they actually want from an agency) and to increase efficiency (there are fewer moving parts).
I hope it's not a trade secret. If it is, apologies.
Alt. Model 2: 'The Hybrid'
Account Handlers and Planners both make an extremely valuable contribution to the advertising process, no doubt about it.
But with margins crumbling across the industry, perhaps it's time to look at merging the two departments.
In many cases, this won't be a problem at all. There are many 'strategic Suits' out there, and tons of Planners who have first-class account handling skills.
Of course, it's too much to expect that every Account Handler will be as adept at planning as a Planner is, and every Planner as adept at suiting as a Suit. So, some decrease in the agency's quality and efficicency is inevitable.
Oh, and in case anyone thinks I'm being biased towards Creatives - by merging Planning and Account Handling while leaving Creative untouched - I'm not. Take another look. I've eliminated the separate Art Director and Copywriter roles, thus making Creatives hybrids too.
Yeah I know, it sucks. But this is a considerably lower-cost model. When times are tough, you can't eat foie gras and go to the theatre every week.
Alt. Model 3: 'The Ad Guy'
This is a radically lower-cost model.
It does away entirely with the three traditionally separate roles of Planner, Creative, and Account Handler, and instead merges them all into one - the 'Ad Guy'.
Obviously, very few individuals are capable of performing all three roles to the same standard that today's specialists can. So some drop-off in quality may be expected. Though arguably this may be offset by an increase in efficiency, since there are many fewer moving parts to this model.
I'm envisaging that each Ad Guy would have a young apprentice, who is gradually trained up to become an Ad Guy (or Ad Girl) themselves.
Now, before you write off this scheme as complete lunacy, consider this: it is in fact the model in most common use by other providers of professional services today, such as Management Consultants, Lawyers, Bankers, Architects, Accountants, and (perhaps most pertinently to us), PR professionals.
Also it's so low-cost, we could all go back to driving Porsches again.