Best Practice

The Future of Agencies

By Neil Perkin,

The progression of agency value in a digital world



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.

Download a copy of the report to learn more.

free sample is available for those who want more detail about what is in the report.

Register for the next 'Future of Agencies' webinar

We're pleased to invite you to book your place for the second webinar in our 'Future of Agencies' series, which will explore in more detail how the customer experience revolution is impacting agencies:

  • How are different types of agencies adapting their capabilities? Does that mean that we are witnessing the birth of a new full service operating model?
  • With digital agencies, consultancies and SIs increasingly developing similar competencies and crossing over in their offerings to clients, who will be the winners?
  • With new types of client engagements, expanding agency footprints and new models of working, how can agencies leverage some of these new principles to drive increased value for their clients?

Contributing Authors


Neil Perkin

More reports from Neil Perkin

Neil Perkin is a renowned blogger, writer and the founder of Only Dead Fish, a digital and media consultancy that specialises in applying strategic understanding of social and emerging media technologies to help businesses innovate and optimise their effectiveness within the new, networked communications environment.

Neil is a consultant with Econsultancy, a regular keynote speaker across Europe on content strategy, emerging media, digital marketing innovation and social technologies, and writes regularly for BrandRepublic, FutureLab, Marketing Week and The Marketing Society among others. He has been named by BIMA as one of the most influential people in the UK digital sector for two years in a row.

Neil curates the quarterly series of Firestarters thought leadership events on behalf of Google, and has worked with market-leading global businesses including Warner Bros, HBOS, YouTube, Marks & Spencer, Leo Burnett and Disney, and is an associate of The Futures Agency, a collaboration of some of the world’s leading media thinkers and futurists.

He has over 20 years media owner experience and was latterly the Director of Marketing, Strategy and Digital for IPC Media, the largest consumer publisher in the UK and publisher of multimedia brands including Wallpaper, Marie Claire and the NME. In this capacity he ran award-winning strategy, planning and consumer insight functions and was at the centre of defining and implementing the digital strategy for one of the largest media owners in the UK.

Table of contents

1. Foreword by Adobe

2. Executive Summary

3. Introduction

4. A Shifting Agency Landscape

5. Technology and Content

6. Innovation

7. Skills

8. Agency Models

9. Conclusion

10. Appendix: Respondent Profiles

11. Resources


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