The awkward truths revealed by covid

Covid has accelerated the trends and pressures we have been seeing for years on the traditional agency model and shone a bright light on perceived wisdom.

It has revealed some awkward truths. Chief amongst these awkward truths, is the traditional agency fee model itself. It has been hidden in plain sight but under close scrutiny, it’s flaws make it ripe for disruption.

Does anyone else see the problem with this pie-chart?


The case for the power of great creativity to deliver step change effectiveness for brands has been made so decisively that it is beyond sensible debate. The interesting question for marketers, is how best to access it, when its value has never been more important and the need to do more for less, has never been more urgent. 

Clients understand that not enough of their fee budget is focussed on where the value is, but until now most haven’t felt they had a viable alternative.  Here are another 4 awkward truths that perhaps point to a possible alternative:

1. The truth is, great creativity, the stuff that delivers step change business results, is usually the work of 2 or 3 people. 

The value is highly concentrated in a very few people. Clients understand this and know who those 2 or 3 are. They’re the people they would take with them on the lifeboat.

What if you focussed resources on the 2 or 3 value creators, and they brought in exactly the right talent as and when they needed it? You could scale up and down by project, always have the right capability and only pay for what you need.

2. You don’t need an expensive building to develop great creativity

Covid has shown us all that.  Agencies are rightly very proud of their work over the last 8 months. Whilst there is value in some of the team being together some of the time there are many ways to achieve that efficiently. 

Does the building really justify the huge premium in cost?

3. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

The agency’s answer to any given problem is almost always what that agency offers. Even well integrated groups have siloed P&Ls, so as a rule the lead team is very reluctant to recommend solutions that don’t feed themselves.

But what if the people cracking the problem brought in bespoke partners for that particular solution? They would be liberated to be truly objective and recommend the right solution whatever it may be.

4. Agencies are not efficient at delivering lots of small projects

At a time when brands are increasingly built in the online spaces, with the subsequent proliferation of content and required specialisms, the drawbacks of the way agencies build teams and manage projects have been exacerbated. Maybe that’s why clients are turning to the efficiency of in-house solutions. 

What if clients could easily plug the creative talent and objectivity of the 2 or 3 value creators into their efficient in-house team when they need it?

These are not new revelations or new ideas but Covid has been the seismic shift that has catalysed what feels like a meaningful disruption. The host of new start-ups is a testament to that. 

Of course, traditional agencies will still be right for many clients (although I suspect they all have a tricky problem they’d like a fresh point of view on) but there is now a genuine choice and that is good for brands, good for the advertising industry, and more importantly, good for creativity.

So, marketers, find your 2 or 3 people who can deliver the world class creativity your brand deserves.  Let them pull together the right talent and capability as and when you need it, and focus your resources where the value is. 

Bigger slice of pie anyone?

Pete Bracegirdle and Guy Moore are founding partners of Creative Coalition. www.creativecoalition.co.uk