First published in Campaign, ENGINE Creative’s CEO Ete Davies talks about what he thinks this year has in store for adland.

Last year was undoubtedly difficult for the industry. Economic uncertainty and political volatility led to a host of challenges and disruptions to how we do business, but, if you think that was tough, just wait as 2020 hits.

While it’s unclear exactly how the election result, Brexit and looming economic slowdown will affect us, one thing is clear, our existing industry challenges will continue. Short-termism, reduced budgets, in-housing, martech, the rise of the consultancies, lack of trust in digital, the decline of the agency of record, creative effectiveness. They aren’t going anywhere soon. To compound matters, a whole new set of challenges will arise, such as C-suite-level roles being merged and new reimbursement models being mandated by brand owners. 

As our clients face increasing pressure to drive growth in their own disrupted markets, they will expect agencies to accelerate the seemingly never-ending quest for “faster, better, cheaper”. However, most agencies have tapped out the change that can be derived from tinkering around the edges of existing business models and will be forced, for the first time in decades, to embark on real and radical change programmes within their business, and this is where the opportunity will lie.

If change is embraced quickly and strategically, agencies can create and propel whole new product offerings and revenue drivers. In the advertising space, we will see agencies unlocking and driving new modes of storytelling through innovative technologies like voice and VR, new channels such as podcasts and streaming services, and truly integrating data into the creative process.

Moreover, agencies will delve further into the service-offering part of their business, pushing upstream by offering strategic consultancy on marketing technology and in-house capabilities, and by collaborating with client product teams to develop new services and potentially sharing IP.

This is the perfect environment for independent agencies to flourish, and 2020 may lead to indie mini-networks forming as they seek to outsmart and outpace the big networks by partnering with each other to develop a broad pallet of deep skills. They could offer diversity of thinking by inviting people with different backgrounds and experiences into their mix, developing interesting new revenue models that are based on value and output, rather than time, and generally being innovative, nimble and experimental. 

It might be tough, but it’s going to be exciting.

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