The Agency of The Future panel event from #TAONB

Attendees at Agency Of The Future at #TAONB

I was at The Agency of The Future seminar from The Art Of New Business (@theartofnewbiz).

The event was hosted by BJL in their great Thinking Space room.

And organised by Sarah at TAONB, who did a great job as MC and panel chair.

Have a look at #TAONB on Twitter (or #agencyfutures) to see what was tweeted on the night.

I was really interested in attending this event:

(1) I’m a bit geeky when it comes to agency operations and services. I love being in/around Agencies, I never really considered client-side because I’ve always got such a buzz out of the collision (mostly good) of creative, planning (data/customer/media..), tech and marketing folk.

(2) I work with agencies to support their client / project work but also, for some of them, I help shape their digital services, their offer and processes for growth.

(Quick plug: see my growing list of guides on Smart Insights:

I know from my own research that there are around 18K agencies (of all sizes and types) in the UK. A figure that chimed with TAONB’s: it’s a crowded marketplace and some agencies are more future-ready (or have the mindset to be) than others.

The speakers (All Killer No Filler) had lots to say and made for a good panel session at the end.

Tom Cheesewright, (@bookofthefuture ) talked about the Singularity and the likely impact of commoditised tech / automation across all sectors. But rather than being a dystopian scenario, he detailed how agencies will (or should) thrive via creative, curation-focused, story-telling services.

The best will steer away from the automated / algorithmic production commodity model and focus on providing expert insight and creative thinking (and execution). That will come from clever, empathetic human beings who will still command a premium for their time (use of their brains). A great sweep of a presentation

Lisa Tomlinson, ( @tomlinson_lisa ) Founder / Planner at Think Shape Do.

“Why Agencies Rock.. And Always Will”

There’s always loads of energy with Lisa (surprisingly not so sweary as usual though, I want my money back).

Agencies will continue to rock because clients need the creative ideas that bodies of smart, lateral thinking folk bring to their business problems. But those bodies may be virtual in the future.

Tom was all for physical workspace (research he detailed shows much better project success for agencies / partners sharing physical space as opposed to being skyped-up all the time).

But Lisa was leaning towards virtual teams and collab spaces.


 Nicky Unsworth, CEO, BJL ( @nickyunsworth)

“How to Future-proof Your Agency”

Nicky gave some great tangible examples of how BJL are keeping ahead of the game in being future ready. Actively listening to clients on an ongoing basis, adapting to the opportunities of new tech but applying that for the creative good, nurturing talent of the future.. to name just three.

Tony Spong, Managing Partner, AAR Group ( @AARGROUP)

“The Future of Marketing”

Some great research findings from Tony around what Clients want form their agencies (and vice versa) and also a reminder of sound pitch and proposal practice.

Liliana Ashton, Digital Business Consultant, Eurocamp  (@lilianaashton)

“The Future of Agencies – Helping Clients Build Their Own Internal Capabilities?”

Liliana gave an interesting insight into how Eurocamp transformed the business with a new ecommerce / CMS platform and also how she selected and worked really successfully with the agency involved (Building Blocks).

She also talked about being clear about your ROI metrics, a theme that came out in the panel session (see those #TAONB tweets for more).

The panel at The Agency Of The Future at #TAONB

So, Agencyville is changing fast and changing big.

Proliferating technologies, automated tasks via new platforms, new skills needed (e.g. to analyse, understand and tell stories with massive amounts of data) and a move by clients to take certain skills in-house.

Danger, Will Robinson! (that’s a reference for Tom, based on his avowed geeky sci-fi knowledge)

That means that Agencies have to keep adapting (in the right places) to prove their worth.

But there’s a light (pots of gold even, to mix my analogies) at the end of this dystopian tunnel for those imaginative, brave agencies with the right service offers and a clear proposition.

I tried to sum up the general gist of thoughts / conversations in one tweet. Which is a non-starter I know but hopefully this captures the themes in the evening:

“Algorithms & Arduinos offer much but businesses will always need smart insight & great creative. That’s you Agencies. Go. #TAONB”



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