Will ad agencies ever make products successfully, consistently?
Like the first Europeans arriving in America, agency people [attempting to make products] meet with natives, the product management community, who have a rich and complex culture but lack the fire-power or expansionary mindset to meet the challenge of the newcomers.
Matt Edgar, who we’ve been collaborating with at Made by Many on some work for an as-yet-undisclosed client, writes about the advertising agency world’s explorations in the product space.
Only the best of [ad agencies] are set up to handle the on-going issues of release management, customer support and so on… Product and service managers know this territory, and they know where the traps are hidden. If the newcomers from marketing-land are prepared to befriend the product natives in the new world of agile service development, they could, together, make a winning combination.
There’s one additional ingredient missing from the typical agency skillset, and that’s the ability to generate product propositions efficiently and quickly. Made by Many has the luxury of having very little baggage in this regard, drawing much more from the lean startup world – and behaving much more like a software company – than any of its agency counterparts are likely to be able to do.
But traditional agencies are hampered by a process and structure which results in long innovation cycle times, significant cost- and time-to-market, and the resulting exposure which clients will increasingly find unpalatable. Of course, there are significant success stories, such as RGA’s Nike+. But layers of account management staff, the inability to hire and retain high-calibre engineers, and a culture hinged on the ‘big reveal’ all increase the risk of failure.
There are positive aspects of the traditional agency culture, however:
Superior access to rapid funding, boldness in exploiting adjacencies, a willingness to try lots of stuff – all of these are supremely transferrable to the iterative, customer-centred practice of Making Things People Want.
Agencies that can combine these qualities with a leaner, meaner product development process will become very threatening indeed to the product management natives.