What’s wrong with ad agencies today?

I read two articles in the last week about marketers’ frustrations with traditional advertising agencies. One was quoting HP’s marketing VP about the lack of speed in his current agencies. The other was highlighting the emergence of digital agencies taking the lead with clients over their traditional counterparts. Here’s what I think is going on.

The old marketing model was something like this:

1. Start with the objective of “building the brand.”

2. Get an agency to create “the big idea” that would get the brand noticed and admired.

3. Push that idea out to consumers or business buyers through mass media that the agency negotiated.

4. Hope that it worked because existing measurement systems were difficult to link this approach to real business results.

Ad agencies built their business models, cultures and operating processes around this approach. Their profitability improved when they could create a few commercials and run them on TV with a pre-negotiated media buy.

What I believe is called for today is a model more like this:

1. Start with the objective of delivering the business results that are required (acquiring customers, improving conversion rates, enhancing loyalty and repeat purchase…).

2. Build a multi-dimensional marketing system that engages consumers or business buyers with compelling value propositions expressed with great creative placed in contextually relevant media environments that drives them destinations that get them to act.

3. Measure what really engages customers effectively and efficiently.

4. Iterate quickly to optimize and improve results.

This requires a different kind of agency model. One that is more attuned to the role digital media plays in the lives of consumers. One that truly embraces measurement and learning. One that can execute and iterate quickly. And one whose business model isn’t based on media commissions.

That is what I believe. How about you?