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Should Agencies Get More Into the Product Business?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The question the title poses is an interesting one. The agency model was developed in a time when businesses had to create multiple advertisements as quickly as possible in order to secure their spots in certain publications. History tells us that agencies rose from being the advertising runner to ad creators and brand partners.

As most of this is still true today, it means that the traditional model has not changed much since the late 1800s. 

A problem indeed.

It is easy to see, then, why there is such a rift between clients and agencies. The needs of the client have changed, yet the agency model has stubbornly stayed put, as if the environment is the same as it's been for decades.

How does the agency model change?

We offered up the suggestion that the agency model focus more on consulting and research functions versus creative delivery and ad creation function, especially on the big brand level, because big brands can afford marketing teams that can create stuff at will. It is usually tougher to create or devise research and strategy inside a corporate office.

But we neglected to review the rise of agencies investing in brands and creating investment arms to help startups and brands strapped for cash. We commented on the trend years ago, but didn't really follow the development. Now, several of those agencies that invested are now co-owners and heavy influencers in products that are now hitting the market.

Just recently, AKQA, one of the hottest digital marketing agencies of the last decade, hired a product development manager to help assist companies the agency partners with in bringing product concepts from idea to implementation.

Could this be a new facet of reality for agencies? Instead of helping create ads and market strategy, must agencies be looked to for product development and market launch?

Why not?

An excellent marketing partner knows your product and your target market inside and out. They know the mission of the brand, what makes the brand special, and why consumers want to buy the product and be associated with the brand. 

All of those ingredients, put together, sound like a pretty good product development team.

And think about the new pitch for agencies. Not only can agencies help increase your sales with your current target market and current offerings, but they can also look into what new products you can make while targeting the same target market, or even grab the attention of a new market. 

The shareholders would have to literally wipe the saliva from their mouths after hearing that.

Hey, agencies, it looks like you got something you can work with.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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