Consultant invasion

Remember the good old days when agencies were the first and only stop for marketers? Well, the evolution of marketing, an increasingly savvy Joe Public and a recession that forced agencies to downsize have paved the way for cost, brand and strategic consultants.

Remember the good old days when agencies were the first and only stop for marketers? Well, the evolution of marketing, an increasingly savvy Joe Public and a recession that forced agencies to downsize have paved the way for cost, brand and strategic consultants.

With companies clamouring for the enviable ‘brand’ status, they are less inclined to knock on the door of a simple ad agency, argues Alan Middleton, marketing professor at Toronto’s York University. ‘There’s been a loss in belief that [agencies] have the intellectual power to really advise.’ Ouch. ‘[Companies] are asking: where can we go for advice on [branding]? The ad agencies only deal with bits of the communication and that’s not what a brand is.’ Some agencies realize they’re being left out. But, says Claude Carrier, a partner at Montreal-based Bos, ‘We don’t have the resources to be good at everything.’

Still, the future looks gloomy for agencies that fail to react, says Middleton. ‘They’ll disappear,’ he says. ‘The industry will fall into two groups: those that provide professional added value and a whole bunch of freelancers. Why would I go to an organization with all the overhead when I can buy creative from that brilliant person who is freelancing?’

SURVEY SAYS!

Smaller agencies have to choose between focusing on one aspect of the business – or building strong alliances with branding, strategic or design firms, says Carrier.

Middleton says the industry has already taken notice ‘of the need for more education about how communications works,’ he says, adding that agencies could restructure within three to five years. ‘[Agencies] have got to step up,’ he says. ‘That’s their challenge.’

Bruce Philp, partner at Toronto’s GWP Brand Engineering, says that consultants are simply filling a vacuum left open by agencies.