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The Hybrid Agency
By: Luke Willoughby
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A hybrid agency includes attributes of full-service, integration, consultancy, disruption, and big picture. It is also more than a buzz term that an agency may use to differentiate. The model tries to prove that less can really be more.

Hybrid teams must be predominantly well-rounded and collaborative. Unlike the segmented specialties of a traditional media or creative agency, hybrid creativity comes throughout the entire partnership in resourcefulness, collaboration, and excitement. The art concepts are tied closely with the media strategy, research, and analytics, and the end product is better for having each of these aspects considered throughout. This collaboration also extends to the client, when their input can be reviewed by the same person involved in the creative development, rather than an account person turning around to hand off instructions. This also creates a vested interest and stronger partnership between agency and client.  

From an execution standpoint, efficiency is the hybrid’s key advantage. One person can now programmatically do the same job that used to require a team of five. The hybrid empowers these orchestrated teams of individuals, sometimes pulling in consultants to maintain low overhead. Conversely, traditional agencies structure massive teams that communicate through narrow channels. These vulnerabilities are now being exposed as time-consuming and expensive by hybrid models

So what are the hybrid agencies? Most are adopting aspects of the hybrid, like programmatic buying and integrated teams. The industry is still reliant on traditional-minded clients using traditional media, which creates challenges in innovating processes. But there are opportunists in any conflict, and these two examples reflect the full spectrum of core values of collaboration and efficiency.

Rooster operates out of New York, and is built on a foundation of maverick creative — including leadership from Vice co-founder Gavin Mciness. But CEO Sebastian Eldridge is a 10-year account man specializing in brand strategy. And to complement their fiery content for clients like Red Bull, New Era, and Dos Equis, the team has developed its own media platform called Spur, focused on distributing and driving viewership of the videos produced. All of this is accomplished from a small Soho office, where everyone "is in the same room," according to Mciness.

Assembly is a recent example at the other end of the spectrum, within the massive holding group MDC. Assembly is the byproduct the March merger of creative shop RJ Palmer and media agency Targetcast. This is a pioneering reversal from the holding company model established by Sir Martin Sorrell and WPP, where segmented creative, media, and research agencies provide efficiencies in scale and margins. But now the efficiency comes from collaboration, and with Assembly poaching Martin Cass from his role as President of Carat, AdAge’s 2013 Media Agency of the Year, it’s evident that accomplished personnel will be the cornerstone. On the move, MDC’s Chairman and CEO Miles Nadal summed it up when he said; "We're getting rid of the duplication of cost that you can further reinvest in better technology, tools and more talent to enhance the effectiveness of the offering."


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About the Author
Luke Willoughby works in the digital media landscape of New York across varying agencies and brands. He also has a background in video and content production, and is invested in the resurgence of the full-service advertising agency and the associated opportunities for the marketing industry. Originally from Denver, Colorado, he's a fan of most outdoor activities and otherwise enjoys reading and film.
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