Where is agency 2.0?

I got the opportunity (I wouldn’t call it luck) to work with many agencies across Europe for all the projects that we’re developing for MSN and/or Windows Live. This year alone my team worked with agencies out of the US, UK, France, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Italy and The Netherlands and even as we speak the team is working on 5 projects with 5 different agencies.

Why? Or how come, you might wonder. There are 2 reasons for this. First of all not all agencies have the same competencies and I like to chose where I go with each project. And second, we develop quite a few activities for all European markets that initially were created in one of the countries, and so we end up working with the initial agency as well (at least for part of it).

All of this is just an introduction to what I really want to say though. All the agencies we work with have their own competencies, their own way of doing business, their own strategies … and what not. Still they all the same problem. Over time agencies have been able to optimize how to do agency business, the problem is that this optimization is very agency centric and doesn’t always benefit the client (that is me in this case).

Let me give you an example. When an agency develops a quote for a project we ask them, they will look at who internally needs to be involved, how much work there is at it, etc… Since the designer, accountant, senior strategist all have different rates per hour work, they will calculate how much time each of them will have to work on the project times their specific rate and that will be the quote you eventually get. Price looks good and you give your OK to the agency and that’s when the fun starts. When you get the first designs for instance you might not like it at all and ask a new design – mmm – there was only one concept round foreseen in the budget they gave you, that’ll be extra. It will be like that until all goes live are gets launched. And who benefits from this? The agency does, it fits in the way they plan things, but you as a client pay for a solution don’t you. Not for 1 or 2 designs, iterations, copy changes, … or whatever.

Another example is related to outsourcing. I get the impressions that agencies, especially digital agencies, are outsourcing more than they used to. From an agency point of view I can understand. Look at the complexity of all things web and how fast it all is moving. As a result you don’t try and get all knowledge in house, but you work with subcontractors. What’s new? Nothing you might say, if it wasn’t for the fact that subcontractors are also passing more and more jobs on to yet another subcontractor and then that might be a problem. Why? Commission here, commission there, who do you think pays these in the end?

Anyway, with more and more agencies adopting new ways to get the connection between their clients the advertisers and the consumer, I think it’s time they rethink themselves as well and look at how they can serve their clients, their customers a bit better. Just a thought.