Madison Avenue Crystal Ball for 2011

If you think 2011 will be the same as this year, get ready to strap on an extra seat belt.  The agencies that thrive in the future will succeed by helping their clients navigate these turbulent times, building brands that consumers wish to engage.

Madison Avenue pundits have been predicting the end of ad agencies for a long time.  Ad agency trends have been unfolding before our eyes. We have already seen top creative directors leaving the best agencies to find their souls.   Issues range from expensive RFP processes forcing ad agencies to shut down their “pitch” to new crowdsourcing models  (a.k.a. “squirrel fights”).   As Forrester said in  March, 2010, agencies are “entering into the great race for relevance”.

The coming year is about more change.  Ad agencies that can manage and navigate through changes of seismic proportions will win.  Period.   The high rate of change keeps us from seeing the future.  Clearly, digital will increase in importance as will social media.   Traditional media (still important) will continue to decline but will not go away anytime soon.  More and more dollars will be spent in marketing and the digital/social media space in 2011.

As we turn the page on 2010, here are Blue Focus Marketing’s Top 11 Predictions for ad agencies.

  1. Social media gains greater speed: Agencies will make better use of social media marketing tools to generate new business leads. As more and more agencies look for ways to use social media to benefit clients, they will begin to use these tools to win new business. Agencies will be more willing to take the lead in helping clients prove the value of social media and to measure initiatives. Who better to take the lead in leveraging social media?
  2. Outsourcing continues to gain speed: A.K.A. the squirrel fight — will reign on. A core team of executives can collaborate and coordinate literally across the globe for great talent – at a good price. Case in point:  Victors & Spoils recent dramatic Harley-Davidson assignment win.
  3. Agency strategic integration skills become more critical: Agencies will get better at managing and leveraging the multiplicity of media options available.  Traditional media, fragmented media, and earned media are all important and integration across a myriad of channels becomes a greater challenge.  Ad agencies can increase their value by helping clients make sense of a dizzying array of paid and unpaid opportunities.
  4. The New (Hybrid) Ad Agency: the debate rages on about the shift from traditional agencies to more digital focus (so-called “tradigital” shops) moving in the direction of hybrid and crowdsourced models. In all cases, ad agencies will sharpen their strategic focus, produce content on a wider scale and use consumer insights to better understand targets. The quest for the best operating model will continue throughout 2011 and beyond.

    “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence –

    only in constant improvement and constant change.”

    Tom Peters

  5. Agency strategic partner role to increase: Marketing and strategy will become even more important. Agency contributions in these critical areas will enhance new business opportunities, revenue and profit.
  6. Chief orchestrator role becomes vital: Ad agency roles will include a “chief orchestrator” to manage the customer experience across a myriad of channels and media.  Hence, strategic integration of social media into media plans will continue at a rapid rate.   Media planners not only add value but will be regarded in a more positive light due to their knowledge, insights, and planning mastery.
  7. Blogging continues to explode: Today’s 200 million + blogs are just the starting point. In 2011, agencies will make better use of agency blogs while helping clients leverage this medium.  Marketers will use blogs to communicate their brand story, key messages and develop compelling content people actually want to read. Blogs present an enormous outlet for creative thinkers to reinforce positive brand perceptions and create entirely new connections. The opportunities abound.
  8. May the best (digital) talent win: Technology will continue to increase in importance. Nearly everything is digital  and agencies with the best digital talent will win vs. agencies who are not up-to-speed.  An agency’s “digital smarts” will help drive strategic direction for clients.
  9. Traditional media will continue to decline: No, it won’t disappear but the digital space will see the most impact and growth again next year.  Mobile advertising will continue to heat-up.  Targeted display advertising in Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter will flourish.  Newspapers will continue attempts to charge for online content as they work to crack the code.  Perhaps their efforts would be better served focusing on creating content that attracts and retains readers and advertisers.
  10. Greater engagement in social media to win new business: Think impact. More ad agency staffers will actually open Twitter accounts and begin to realize the enormous opportunity to share valuable content, network and generate high value new business leads.  Instead of saying “hey, I have a Twitter account” the smart agency staffer says “I use Twitter as a valuable tool to help win new business.”  Engaging in social media also says that the picture has changed from one centered around share of voice to a new measure:  share of influence. SOI is a new, ever-expanding dimension of marketing program management. Agencies will be more aware of the importance of gaining and exerting influence, realizing that influence builds with each passing tweet, retweet, post or update.
  11. Ad agencies apply creativity throughout the enterprise: the best ad agencies will be engaged with clients at the early product development stages, helping to brainstorm, refine and launch new products.  Agencies will begin to apply their vast creative resources (creative smarts) throughout the enterprise for everything from new product ideas to creating entirely new business models.  Such efforts will strengthen the client/agency partnership.

The following video demonstrates the continuing need for change in the ad agency business.  This video asks ad agency executives to:  “wake up to the employment changes they face and retool, relearn and retrain.” (Source: FITC).


Top 200 Brands Advertising Budgets
Source: Marketing Degree

Blue Focus Marketing is a 360 degree social media marketing and brand consultancy, serving ad agencies  and brands. Visit to learn more.

Ad Agencies:  Check out our latest new business reports. Get the tools to help you win in 2011.


Follow us on Twitter:

Cheryl Burgess @ckburgess

Mark Burgess @mnburgess

Blue Focus Marketing @bluefocus360

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