Trends of 2020 and their impact on the Client-Agency collaboration model

A lot has been said about the need to protect privacy and the changes that are or will be introduced in the near future. However, I have not yet encountered the subject of the not always obvious consequences of the above in the field of cooperation between the Client-Agency.


However, before I go into the substance, it is important to introduce another concept, which is the so-called “Walled Garden”. Briefly, this means a closed advertising system, where the rules defining the ways of operation are controlled from the top, and exporting raw data or merging data of one ecosystem with another is impossible. The first players that come to mind when we talk about the “Walled Garden” are of course companies like Google or FB.

The very concept of “gardens” is of course not new, but it is very important to understand that the rightful changes towards better privacy protection will naturally further increase the importance and impact of large, closed advertising ecosystems. Why? Because only within them will advertisers be able to continue activities like profiling, or implement more advanced attribution models like DDA.

So how will “gardens” and their stronger position on the market affect the model of Client-Agency cooperation?  To answer this question it is necessary to understand the principles of functioning of large advertising systems.

In simple terms we can present this as follows.

  1.  In the brief, the client defines, for example, the target group for their new product.
  2. The agency defines in the advertising system a campaign consistent with the brief.
  3. The advertising system on the basis of data and thanks to machine learning defines who from the targeting specified by the Agency will actually see our ad (by default, these are the people with the highest chance of a click or conversion).

This scheme shows the increased participation of algorithms in campaign optimization. In other words, part of the manual work so far has been automated and performed by algorithms. In practice, this translates into the construction of new tools within the advertising ecosystem, where we increasingly see fewer and fewer opportunities for users to control the work of algorithms. Of course, this process has been going on for some time, but it has recently accelerated dramatically. This does not mean, however, that the amount of work done by the agency has decreased. After 12 years of experience I can say that there is definitely more (sic!).

So what are the consequences of such fundamental changes in the way we do things?

  • The first is, of course, the question of gaining competence on the part of the client, so as to be able to better understand what is happening in campaigns and why. I will say without a shadow of hesitation that this element is crucial. Without it, we will slowly drift towards the model of cooperation, which can be illustrated by such an example: Agency in the role of a techno shaman, translates the will of the Deity (e.g. Google algorithms). This is an asymmetrical relationship and as such it makes it difficult to jointly build added value for our business partners.
  • The second is the need to build new competencies on the part of the agency – the technical ones – to understand what and why algorithms do. And, more importantly, to stay up to date with new solutions. It is also necessary to develop soft skills, based on both client service skills and strategic-consulting skills.

Calls for the creation of symmetrical relations on the client-agency axis are nothing new. We have also seen their effects many times in the form of industry awards or successfully implemented, innovative campaigns. However, I would like to recall here Clarke’s Thurd Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Technology, even the most “magical” technology, is only meant to be a tool. Symmetry alone in relationships is not enough. Symmetry must be complemented by competence. Otherwise, we will put ourselves in the role of supplicants to half-magical algorithms.

AD 2020 and the coming years is a period when the relationship between the Client – Agency must evolve more and more towards partnership, joint work, not even on the basis of a brief, but at the stage of its formulation or even support in defining an action strategy, so that it is possible to implement it within selected advertising ecosystems.

We can even talk about a kind of paradox, where shifting part of the Agency’s work to algorithms does not weaken the position of the Agency, on the contrary, it strengthens it and allows to build a new quality together with the Client.

And I wish this new quality to every entity on the market. This is the only way will we be able to jointly create brands that are close to people, committed and at the same time successful in the strictly business field.