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Report: The Open-Source Ad Agency Model

As if dusty Madison Avenue (see Rehab: An Advertising Love Story) needed another punch in the gut: today, Adweek reported the latest study released by the Corporate Executive Board’s Advertising and Marketing Roundtable, which reveals that the majority of brands today want to utilize an “open source” model of agencies, instead of the one-stop shop. As both the media landscape and consumers become more fragmented, big bulky ad agencies like the BBDO’s and Y&R’s of the world can’t get at the nuance required by marketers. Instead, cobbling together a customized team of smaller firms that flaunt expertise in areas like ethnography and digital, is the new buffet-style roster of choice.

When we initially reported this trend back in October 2005 (“Is Madison Avenue Ready to Go Naked?“), we chronicled how “media agnostic” London-shop Naked Communications identifies the business problem, and then recruits the smartest agencies to execute. Similarly, brands like Coke were already starting to cherry-pick their mosaic of agencies, regardless of holding company. Since then, we’ve recently seen Nike shake up its own mix, handing the Running, Nike Plus, and Nike ID portion of the business to Miami/Boulder hot-shop Crispin Porter + Bogusky, despite its some 25-year love affair with Wieden + Kennedy, who’s been producing iconic work for over two decades.

This isn’t exactly what the Omnicoms and WPPs had in mind when they went off on acquisition sprees, and this certainly isn’t going to help their bottom line. But what marketers are doing is keeping the playing field level: may the best idea producers and executors win, regardless of allegiance. And of course, keep the agencies on their toes like never before. Because if a Wieden + Kennedy can get dumped, anyone can.

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