Convergence In The Communications Agency World

paid_owned_earnedSeveral years ago I had lunch with the head of a PR firm and a media agency. They were friends and knew each other for many years. I was talking about my view of the changing nature of the industry and then I said something that surprised them.

“You know, within a few years you’ll be competing with each other”.

I know they discounted my view since there was no overlap of their businesses at that time and they thought there was no reason to ever believe that their business worlds would overlap. I’m no genius, but I could see the future far more clearly.

Like the fight scene in the classic movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “the rules are there are no rules”. While specialization remains paramount, agencies also understand that ceding their leadership role to another agency on a client leaves their relationship vulnerable, and therefore everybody is into everything.

Social media may have been the tipping point for this—is it advertising, PR, promotion, a media vehicle, a customer communication channel? Yes, to all and more. So what kind of “agency” handles social?

Furthermore PR agencies have taken off their gloves, and are either becoming or are affiliating more directly with ad agencies. The latest example was Weber Shandwick’s announcement of the rebranding and positioning of its SawMill agency as a paid media focused ad agency, following similar actions by Edelman and FleishmanHillard as reported in the article, Ad Agencies Are Losing Their Balls To PR Shops.

Convergence of paid, earned and owned media is not a new phenomenon. It’s an ongoing trend. The convergence of agency skills is merely an outgrowth of the changing landscape. Nothing stays the same for long. Change is the status quo in communications .

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  1. Keith says:

    You are correct, this does exist. Although I think it’s a shame that it does. Despite the industry become more and more fractured and specialized, agencies still try and take on the full service mantra, and they’re essentially lying about what they do, which is just unethical.

    I know the allure of owning the relationship in total, but in doing so, you’re typically selfishly getting paid for work that you’re not very good at delivering on, thus just doing wrong by a client. And to me, that’s not just a good way to conduct business.

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Keith, in the end those who claim that they “do it all” are only as good as their weakest link. Thanks for the feedback. Hope all is well.

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