Change the agency from within, make it less fogey and more funky? Risky this, and time-consuming.
The new answer seems to be not to bother with the dangerous internal soul-searching but to start from scratch, and set up an agency within the agency - with its own name and, supposedly, image.
Leo Burnett has done this and launched the sub-agency Made.
Made, headed by Joakim Jonason and aimed at the fashion and lifestyle sector, is being launched just over a year after J. Walter Thompson created Label (which handles clients including Glamour and Rimmel) to deal with the very same sector.
Jonason has made his reputation with work on the fashion brand Diesel at the Swedish agency Paradiset DDB, of which he was a founding member and creative director. Since then he helped start the ill-fated Cave Anholt Jonason agency and then went, briefly, to Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper as creative director to work on Citroen, before the agency lost the £40 million task to Partners BDDH.
Jonason says that it's logical for both Burnett and JWT to set up such agencies because they don't have expertise in style and fashion in the traditional agency. He adds that, even if fashion veterans were brought in, it would still prove hard for them to approach the fashion market - their stale, traditional reputations would scare off clients.
"It's logical to set up this kind of thing to attract different sorts of clients, ones that would not normally come to these bigger agencies," Jonason says.
"Sometimes fashion and lifestyle clients think traditional agencies are too big for them. They also haven't traditionally been working with this type of client."
Bruce Haines, Leo Burnett's group chief executive, concurs: "Fashion and lifestyle brands don't like working with big agencies. It is certainly not the case that agencies cannot handle the business but the external signals of the agency sometimes just don't suit. They want people to live in their world. It's attracting new clients to the agency, clients that wouldn't normally think about coming to Leo Burnett London."
But Nicola Dicketts, the managing partner of Label, thinks that offering a separate agency is only the beginning - supplying consultancy is the key.
"Fashion and lifestyle brands need more than advertising. They rely on PR and more savvy use of different communication channels. They have more restrictive budgets. This is why Label is a communications agency, not an advertising agency, she says.
Jonason hasn't gone this far but wants to emulate, to some degree, what Mother has set up.
"It's going to be a Scandinavian model that is already tested in the UK, thanks to Mother, he says. "The spider in the middle is the account manager, production leader and traffic person all in one. We'll work in groups of four: the account manager and planner, who is the same person, the creative team and the strategist. This suits these kind of products very well."
So will we see the other traditional agencies follow suit to try and grab the cool and trendy fashion and lifestyle clients?
"Clearly others have spotted the opportunity and competition is healthy, Dicketts says.