The future of the traditional full-service agency model is something most people in the digital industry have an opinion on. A few months back, Chief Marketing Officer, Jordan Bitterman at the Weather Company mused on the trend shifting over to working with smaller niche players and said "the days of a full-service agency offering full service to every client are gone," you can read more about it in this Business Insider article. Whereas the Drum last year gave us a well-rounded argument that sees validity in both models.
As a .NET development studio, naturally, we at Cold Banana are well and truly advocates for the benefits of working with a specialist: we’re nimble, we’re experts, we’re cost-effective. That doesn't mean our way is the only way. There is absolutely still a need for the full-service model. The likes of Amaze, Realise and locally, Redweb, are flying that flag, and seeing huge successes. They are well placed to own the full strategic relationship with a client and can deliver a cohesive solution. However, amongst the majority of us smaller agencies, there is very much the feeling we should be niching down and an understanding that if we go head to head as a full-service agency, we are only as good as our weakest service offering.
The Agency: a Brief History
We saw this shift happen before, back in the seventies, when full service divided up into creative, media and insights to focus on specialities individually. Then along came “digital” and created a space for “digital first” specialist agencies to take a step up, and work as an integrated component of the bigger agencies They then became the new “full service” as a one-stop shop across search, social, web design, development, online advertising… anything a business needed to thrive in a digital age. Here we are again, debating whether we should try and offer our clients as many services as we can bill for to “own” that relationship, or collaborate with other trusted experts to deliver great value for money without unnecessary overheads.
Locally, there are some cracking agencies who have completely owned their niche and are seeing a great amount of growth from it - 3Sided Cube creating apps with a purpose, Media Lounge owning the Magento e-commerce space, Amuzo dominating the games scene, and Fireworx focusing on delivering top quality marketing and creative services have all shown that this model works at a local level. We also have the likes of Thinking Juice, just down the road from us, who are able to offer their clients an integrated experience, with a specialism in advertising, as well as the likes of WeClick Media specialising in Technical Delivery. The best thing about having a marketplace filled with specialist, niche players and the larger full-service ones means we can all have the best of both worlds. We can work in a space where we are experts, and will happily collaborate with other experts or support large in-house teams where necessary, all whilst driving the local economy forward and bringing in better clients and employment opportunities for local talent.
We really see the value in creating a partner network around us to access new projects with clients, whilst being able to be masters in our individual services. The client gets an “artisanal” experience, with the ease and holistic view of a full-service offering. Our speciality is .NET development, and so have been able to assist our partner agencies where development isn’t a focus of theirs or even agencies with their own in-house teams that need supplementing on a project by project basis. We can afford to keep overheads down by running a lean team, focused purely on developing the best possible solutions. We have a larger development team than a lot of “full service” agencies and are able to tackle the development element of some pretty large projects, so don’t let our size fool you!
We’ve been fortunate to forge partnerships with agencies that offer either complementary services or to help when internal teams are stretched - but either way, we pride ourselves on offering a service to be an agency for agencies.
If you want to know more about how we partner with agencies, come chat with us! We’ll get the kettle on :)