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    The Downfall of the Traditional Agency – Part 1

    Abigail van Zyl / 6th Nov 2018 / Business

    In this four-part blog series, I will be discussing the inevitable downfall of the traditional agency structure in four parts. As a quick taster, I’ll be sharing my personal insights about why so many are jumping ship before being dragged under by the unnecessary strains of working in a traditional agency.

    My general feelings about advertising agencies which include: digital, above-the-line, below-the-line, creative, through-the-line, or whatever-they-like-to-call-themselves-agencies, is not good. This feeling is based on personal experiences and interactions with people who work in the industry.

    When I began my marketing career in agencies, it was a given that you were expected to work late, and sacrifice your life and any family obligations because you were involved in “agency life”. I always felt unhappy about being automatically signed up to this industry agreement. My attitude was never: this is just agency life, so I have to work hard then party with my colleagues. No other industry has this weird mantra. I never accepted it as just part of my job.

    The longer I hung onto this belief, the more my confidence faded, after all, a good marketer loves their brand and will follow the agency wherever they venture. I thought perhaps I was just not good at this marketing thing.

    During one stage of my career, I was the only client service person responsible for 25 mid to large sized clients. The agency housed about 15 other creative and support staff members, so it didn’t lack resources. Even with the extreme pressure, I thrived and very rarely worked late. Opposite to standard agency beliefs, I realised the difference between working hard and working smart. I very rarely messed around during the day (like many who needed “inspiration” and would sit on YouTube during working hours and cram their work into the wee hours of the morning) –  I just got it done.

    In general, millennials as a group no longer want to be in environments where “work-hard, play-hard” is the underlying culture of the business. In the past agencies have got away with murder by enticing the youth with the idea of “lifestyle workplaces” that include free drinks and wings on the roof on Fridays, chill rooms and chocolate tastings as a “treat”. They’ve contracted companies, at great cost, to plan corporate culture and handle change management. These are simply distraction tactics and are used to manipulate agency staff into thinking “this is a cool company to work for”.

    For many years I HATED being called a millennial, I believed that hard work (also see smart work) was a necessity in success, that you kept your word and for some dumb reason, that loyalty was rewarded and respected in business. But I was included in the group of younger millennials who had destructive habits like going out all night and just not coming into work the next day because they had a hangover, or missing deadlines continuously and then having full on temper tantrums when they were called out about it. I would never conduct myself in this manner and I felt embarrassed to be associated with these people.

    So, I’d rather refer to myself as an “elder millennial”, as the year I was born in wedges me into the beginning stages of this generation, where I remember ticky-boxes and telephone books. I wanted to introduce this series of blog posts as the talent pool for the next ten years will be dominated by these individuals and they’ll eventually wear down traditional agency culture, and to be frank it has been a long-time-coming.

    Then again it’s not just the fact that millennials are entering the industry that’s signalling the end of the traditional agency as we know it. Nope, there are a number of factors. But we’ll discuss that in my next blog: Technology, early adopters, and agency processes.