Convergence In The Communications Agency World
Several years ago I had lunch with the head of a PR firm and a media agency. They were friends and knew each other for many years. I was talking about my view of the changing nature of the industry and then I said something that surprised them.
“You know, within a few years you’ll be competing with each other”.
I know they discounted my view since there was no overlap of their businesses at that time and they thought there was no reason to ever believe that their business worlds would overlap. I’m no genius, but I could see the future far more clearly.
Like the fight scene in the classic movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “the rules are there are no rules”. While specialization remains paramount, agencies also understand that ceding their leadership role to another agency on a client leaves their relationship vulnerable, and therefore everybody is into everything.
Social media may have been the tipping point for this—is it advertising, PR, promotion, a media vehicle, a customer communication channel? Yes, to all and more. So what kind of “agency” handles social?
Furthermore PR agencies have taken off their gloves, and are either becoming or are affiliating more directly with ad agencies. The latest example was Weber Shandwick’s announcement of the rebranding and positioning of its SawMill agency as a paid media focused ad agency, following similar actions by Edelman and FleishmanHillard as reported in the article, Ad Agencies Are Losing Their Balls To PR Shops.
Convergence of paid, earned and owned media is not a new phenomenon. It’s an ongoing trend. The convergence of agency skills is merely an outgrowth of the changing landscape. Nothing stays the same for long. Change is the status quo in communications .