More on Getting Discovered: The End of the Agency?

If we have consumer-generated content and consumer-generated media, do we still need ad agencies?

Today’s mania for social media is like the shift to online advertising in the late 1990s, when a crop of digital agencies offered capabilities traditional shops couldn’t. Now, those same innovators are in danger of becoming dinosaurs, says Greg Verdino, chief strategy officer of Crayon, a company that describes itself as a mashup of capabilities in “new marketing.”

There’s still a role for agencies, he says, as strategic consultants and as curators of all that consumer-generated stuff out there. “There’s a ton of consumer content created every day, from Tweets to branded items in virtual worlds,” Verdino says. Agencies must help advertisers find and celebrate the best of what’s being made by consumers — in a way that supports both the brand and the person who created it.

But that requires developing new competencies and probably new hires — and agencies aren’t always ready to wade into murky waters. Crayon itself struggled with this: It didn’t have a media department, but it did have a creative department with the usual chief and directors in charge of coming up with and developing ideas.

“Social media requires somebody to think partly like a media guy — how to get eyeballs — [and] partly like a creative guy — the right messaging, the right way to stimulate action,” Verdino says. Crayon’s solution was to abolish the creative department and give everyone in the company carte blanche to do smart marketing. Now, he says, “Great ideas can come from anyplace.” 

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