I just skimmed Forrester Research’s report “The Connected Agency” from their Interactive Marketing Professional team. This is great stuff I’m going to read again and map out how I feel and where I fit in their scheme of things.
UPDATE: I got a nice call from Forrester this morning (2/11/08). Here is how you can access the full report:

The link we discussed (www.forrester.com/connectedagency) now directs visitors to the main report page, where Forrester clients can log in and download the report, or non-clients can purchase a copy for $279.

As an corporate communications dude, I see how things are changing inside. Silos are coming down. People with skills are connecting with people on different teams to get advice, maximize resources and share learnings.I see agencies and vendors evolving quickly too. They’re racing to capture talented people, participate in key communities (for their industry and for the benefit of their clients) and they’re mastering new tools.There is an healthy pull pulling both corporate communications/marketing and agencies/vendors up to new heights, faster and faster. And along the way more people from both sides are participating online, testing and improving new Web 2.0 tools. We’re also learning a lot and getting better at making sense of data and sharing it quickly, broadly. Those abilities will improve in 2008.One thing I’d like is to start pulling in what Forester pegs to happen in 2013 “the agency is part of the community.” I believe we’re actually seeing “the agency promotes the community” in some cases right now. But I do think Forester has it right here:

* 2008 to 2009: The agency involves the community. Even in 2007, agencies and marketers began to reach out to consumers: Chanel worked with viral agency BuzzParadise to tap select bloggers for participation in special events and to receive insider brand news; Publicis launched a blogger advertising network, with the twist that amateurs create the ads. Agencies need to keep consumers involved consistently and begin to build a specialization in specific target markets or with communities based on the brands with which they are working. Where’s the money? Brands will pay a premium for the high conversion rates that the agency can guarantee based on its community insights.

* 2010 to 2012: The agency promotes the community. Agencies focus dedicated teams on creating direct relationships with tightly defined communities. At shops like Leo Burnett, job titles shift from account manager to community animator. Media fragmentation, communities embodying multiple personas, and niche brands offer a rich opportunity for agencies to compile distinct portfolios of closely knit consumers, uncovered by disparate data sources. Much like a talent or sports agent, the community animator will begin promoting its own communities to compatible brands, rather than the reverse. Agencies will take the place of gatekeeper to those communities, and brands will need to pay to get in. By 2010, brands like BMW will have realized that mass marketing is over and that access to influencers is the way forward.

* 2013 on: The agency is part of the community. Agency staff will draw closer to the communities they interact with and ultimately become part of the community itself. Fast-forward to the future: The successful agency has intimate involvement with community members as an external mouthpiece and internal catalyst. This bond allows the agency team to “age” with its community, brokering relationships with new brands as the community’s needs change. Large groups like JWT will scale by managing a kaleidoscope of different consumer groups, introducing and handing off appropriate brands as communities evolve. Advertisers will consolidate business with agencies that can adeptly accompany brands throughout their life cycle within diverse consumer communities.

clipped from www.forrester.com
The Connected Agency
Marketers: Partner With An Agency That Listens Instead Of Shouts
Mary Beth Kemp, Peter Kim

Today’s agencies fail to help marketers engage with consumers, who, as a result, are becoming less brand-loyal and more trusting of each other.
A new definition of “mass media” is emerging. Content Creators comprise 13% of the US adult online population and 11% of online Europeans.(see endnote 8) Communities can now find and consume media that speaks directly to niche interests, published by other community members. The new mass media is made up of a collection of communities. While many consumers are involved, each individual community is small, fragmenting the market further. As more consumers become involved in Social Computing, these platforms will grow and eclipse today’s mainstream media.
New players compensate for left-brain deficiencies.
Pull dominates push; quality trumps quantity.
Creative talent resides inside and outside the firm
The agency promotes the community
  blog it

6 thoughts on “Connected Agencies & Corporate Marketing Change Agents

  1. You’re a celebrity! About time!!

    Excellent post. I don’t think mass marketing will ever die, but directionally I second the shift that you describe. Maybe I’m jaded, but I also give it longer than 5 years before community marketing gets more dollars than its “mass” counterpart.

  2. @PeterKim @annie…thank you both.

    Peter, I’ll find a way for us to connect soon. Your team at Forrester is really doing great stuff, helping us all! Kudos.

    Annie, you’re so right. I guess I like the notion of telling stories to smaller, enthusiast groups who can then help share with other interest groups…rather than crafting one story that will reach the biggest audience. Sharing derivations of a story to fit particular interest groups is the way to go. This is not new, but I think it is becoming more important, and something we help top managers appreciate even more than they do today.

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