Why next generation brands don't need an ‘agency’

Not another ‘the agency model is broken’ blog 

We hear and read so much about the death of the agency model as we know it. Those expert reports exploring ‘agency 2.0’ and trade media features describing the agency of the future. 

New agencies are regularly launched that boldly reject the old model, practices and offerings of the past in favour of a new kind of agency, claiming that the old model is broken (or ‘fucked’ if it’s a creative director writing it). 

We were keen to avoid going down that road when VIDA launched in 2018 (also avoiding the moody founders’ photo where the setting has shifted from the Soho rooftop, to the Shoreditch brick wall). 

But as we continue talking to clients about how VIDA can support them as an Accelerator/ Incubator/ Studio, we did think it would be useful to set down what it is, and why we’re doing it.

Not another ‘not another agency’ model

Not another ‘not another agency’ model

Here’s some context: 

There are broadly four schools of thought around the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the agency evolution.

1) The consolidation/market correction point of view

Driven by tech innovation and the dominance of the big platforms (and some agency bad practice) the nature of client demand has changed; the role and purchasing responsibility of the CEO has transformed; competition – particularly on price – has intensified; clients are moving strategic, media and creative production services in-house; there are new trends inside client organizations and so on. It’s disruption coming to the historical home of disruption. So, agencies have had to adapt; downsize, rationalise, merge, refocus – or die. 

2) The agency 2.0. evangelists 

This is the optimistic and opportunistic version of the point above. Leaders and investors – many of whom were instrumental in previous waves of agency evolution – are making their next moves ahead of the pack, whether by design or necessity. There’s Martin Sorrell’s S4C, focused on data, digital content and digital media planning and buying. There’s You&Mr Jones (with that focus on ‘brand tech’ – the sweet spot where technology and marketing meet). And there are the distributed talent platform/networks like The Hoxby Collective. They enable clients to buy expert creative services and access talent on a variable cost basis while, in theory at least, giving individuals freedom to work in a more flexible way. 

3) The bullshit brigade 

This takes in those who believe that nothing fundamental has changed: that the current obsession with tech and the evolving role of the agency are nothing new. Strip away the current trends and buzzwords, or the proliferation of ‘strategies’ and you’ll see that the agency’s offer and the value that it creates is largely unchanged – expert creativity and creative communications to make brands famous, likeable, desirable and memorable. Plus ça change. 

4) The post-agency movement 

From Laundry Service and Vayner Media for established brands, to Red Antler and branding agency Gin Lane (recently renamed and repositioned as  Pattern) for DTC brands, these businesses are not just ‘redesigning or redefining the agency model – they’re rebuilding it from scratch. They will deliver the strategic and creative services the market needs today, with the mindset and hunger of a startup, ready to adapt as that demand changes. 

This last group are all building businesses based on evolving and future client demand. They’re not hampered by the limitations of current supply – e.g. a large, fixed cost, (and costly), talent base whose time needs to be sold – and with having to manage the revenue decline/structural change in a legacy core business. 

It’s essentially a startup mindset and approach, applied to creative services. That may be why many of the clients of these ‘agencies’ come from the startup world, including several direct to consumer (DTC) brands.

So, we arrive at VIDA. When the founders launched it in 2018, they focused on what kind of support was needed to meet the demands of startup businesses like DTC brands and next-generation media brands that are transforming the economy. The result is what we call an Incubator Accelerator Studio. 

On the incubator side VIDA helps to identify and secure capital funding to grow. 

As a growth accelerator VIDA offers the expertise and experience to build diverse and recurring revenues, fast. 

And on the studio side VIDA helps these businesses to develop their audience. using high-engagement digital content. 

Our work is based on a common understanding of the mechanics of a business built on funding rounds rather than focused on quarterly results, and through innovation in agency remuneration – including both income and equity.

VIDA isn’t just an accelerator or an incubator, and it isn’t an agency either – it’s all those things and more. Ultimately, VIDA is a business that’s custom-built to grow the next generation of content-powered brands. 

Mark Maddox