The Future of Agencies: The progression of agency value in a digital world report, published in association with Adobe, outlines the key challenges faced by agencies in adapting to a rapidly changing, customer experience-centric marketing environment.

The 65-page report provides useful intelligence on how agencies are responding to these challenges and equipping themselves for the future through their use of technology, partnerships, attainment of new skills and an evolving culture in order to maximise value and differentiation.

Building on the initial research into this subject, outlined in the Progression of Agency Value report published by Econsultancy in association with Adobe in 2012, the report aims to provide an updated model for the future of agencies.

Key findings

  • A new ‘full-service’ business model is emerging that is blending front-end, marketing, design and communications capabilities with back-end technology and integration.
  • Rapid diversification of capabilities is leading to rapid diversification in revenue streams, with many agencies adopting a blended rate card approach to charge for blended services in smarter ways.
  • With the continuing challenge of proving value to clients, the role of partnerships is becoming key to creating differentiation and competitive advantage.
  • New operating models are creating high demand for skills in particular areas – notably data-driven skills, design and content, cross-channel performance analytics – leading to a ‘war for talent’.
  • Agencies are finding new ways to bring value to clients through the implementation of new engagement and staffing models, such as concurrent working and co-location.


This best practice guide, written by renowned blogger, writer and consultant Neil Perkin, involved three main research phases:

  • Phase 1: Qualitative research. This first phase involved a series of in-depth interviews with a broad range of senior leads across different agency types. A total of 22 in-depth interviews were conducted.
  • Phase 2: Quantitative research. The second phase involved a survey which secured responses from nearly 500 mid- and senior-level agency practitioners.
  • Phase 3: Desktop research. The third phase involved research into existing thinking, issues, examples and models relevant to a comprehensive consideration of the evolution of agencies and their use of technology.

For the purposes of the research, interviewees were sourced from six broad agency types:

  1. Mainstream creative: Above-the-line, generalist advertising agencies specialising in creative or design-led business models.
  2. Media: Agencies whose core services are focused on media planning and buying.
  3. Direct / traditional marketing with digital: Services born out of direct marketing specialisations that have evolved to incorporate digital services.
  4. Digital and interactive: Full-service digital, digital strategy, design and build.
  5. Specialist: Focused on a specialist areas such as mobile or disciplines such as user experience (UX), enterprise and technology.
  6. Full-service and integrated: Broad-based agencies, systems integrators and consultancies, incorporating a range of consultancy, build and UX services to clients.The Future of agencies