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2015 in review & 2016 predictions

November 13 2015

Our trends issue would not be complete without at glance back at the major changes we saw in 2015 and to make some predictions and observations about 2016.

We've narrowed our thoughts down to five fundamental areas:  People, process, proposition, capabilities and culture.  The aim is for these to be stimulus for your own action and conversation starters at dinner parties. Maybe..!

But a few macro-drivers will create huge change in 2016 - these changes will impact all areas of the agency and creative landscape:

Consolidation - within agencies, within groups and between groups.  The landscape is too busy and consolidation will be a reality.

Convergence vs Specialism – will brands by the scale of a converged agency group or seek out the deep-specialisms of smaller players.  Or in a third-way will they larger converged agencies need to collaborate with specialist.  The question may become one of trust and how much a client feels they can get excellence in one place.

Production vs Consulting – There are already factions in the landscape in the models adopted by agencies. PWC entry with an advertising agency offer through to those investing in content studios vs partnering.   There is low margin/ high volume production vs high margin/ low volume consulting. Which strategy will win, will there be one winner?

People - a global resource demanding more from the workplace.

Agencies today are fishing in a truly global pool for the best talent.  Much talked about in the last five years, 2015 saw this become a reality, in part a result of the return to growth and confidence, which saw agencies attracting and looking for the best talent across the globe. 

In 2016 this trend will continue and will be further impacted by trends we see such as consolidation and growth.  The continuation of this key trend is the shift in hiring talent to add specific skills and new capabilities to the agency.  An approach not just to hire for now but hiring strategies for 3-5 years that add new capabilities and revenue.

Capabilities - unblurring the agency lines

The rulebook is truly being rewritten on this one and the first draft is still with the proofers.  Change has been omnipresent in 2015 and is set to accelerate in 2016.  The blurred lines between disciplines, the new ways brands engage with agencies the pressure on margin mean the core agency offer are on the move.

A fundamental focus for agencies in 2016 must be to focus on creativity.  Not simply the idea but in how engagements are approached, how teams are resourced, how relationships with brands are forged.  We see a new rulebook of agency capabilities nearing a published version by the end of 2016.

Process - new agency mechanics

In parallel to the rule book on agency capabilities is the agency process handbook that too is going through an iteration in 2015.  From the rise of the ECD, data scientist, developers, the big idea, integrated to digitalise the landscape and agency environment has become siloed in 2015.

There will be a new openness emerging in 2016 that will see greater collaboration across the agency, within groups and the creation of a network of skilled partners to aid delivery.  The role of technology will continue to have its place at the table.  Mobile will again be the word of the year, with programmatic and automation close behind.  Whether the industry can stop talking about 'content' is anyone’s guess.

Culture - the art of attraction

The very kernel of what will make agencies attractive to the best people but also a longer-term partner to brands.  The world of work and agencies specifically are beginning to see the assault of a new generation who are demanding more from work.  The old structures, working frameworks, pay and reward systems are not as relevant as they once were.  In 2016 a new open, flexible and more mobile, connected agency will take root.

Proposition - stand out for what you are really good at.

As we said in 2015, lines have become increasingly blurred between agencies.  To the extent that brands have publicly stated that understanding the landscape and which agencies offer which services, has become near impossible.  In 2016 a blend of culture, capabilities, people and processes must inform the agency proposition.