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Bark & Bite

Why it pays to be direct

Agility, efficiency, speed to market - client mandatories that are driving the demise of the 'fully integrated' agency and flourishing of the specialist creative agency

Christian Knowles-Fitton, managing director, Bark&Bite
Christian Knowles-Fitton, managing director, Bark&Bite

Any creative agency with its ear to the ground has long-since removed mid-90s buzzwords like "fully integrated", "channel-agnostic" or, worse, "360° approach" from the "About us" on its website. Clients soon realised that the promise of having every skill set required to meet their various briefs under one roof would require an impossibly large roof. Or that their £65,000-a-month agency retainer was simply being spent on maintaining that roof, with no tangible output to show for it.

Instead, clients are seeking best-in-breed solutions to the different facets of their briefs, and building effective partnerships with a roster of agencies and suppliers that can better meet their requirements. This has included areas such as media buying, SEO and social, but more recently clients have also realised the benefits of working directly with a new breed of agency to meet consumers’ increasingly voracious appetite for moving content.

This rapid and much-documented shift in media consumption is helping to put the writing on the wall for the big-hitting agencies. The production of high-quality moving content (and lots of it) can never be effectively serviced by agencies set up to deliver strategy, outdoor, press and a handful of TV ads for their clients each year.

The client/account handler/planner/creative/producer model is just too convoluted when agility and speed to market are paramount. And, while many creative agencies have thrown a dozen iMacs in their basement and called it an in-house studio, this isn’t sustainable. The best 3D artists and animators don’t want to work in the basement of old agencies, sharing space with dusty D&AD pencils from 1986. Furthermore, with a keener focus on ROI and efficiency of spend, clients are even more reluctant to pay for that roof, several floors above.

Some businesses have even established their own in-house studios: Unilever did exactly that through a partnership with Oliver last year. But this suffers from the same issue. The very best creative talents simply don’t want to work for a big corporation, no matter how much they like Marmite and Magnums. And, without the best talent, the quality of the output will naturally be limited.

Enter a new solution: specialist creative agencies that provide a genuine end-to-end service, from creative concept through to production and distribution. They typically establish themselves by working on production and post-production of projects on behalf of other creative agencies. But they’ve evolved to work directly with clients to provide the agility and efficiency needed to produce and distribute moving content at the volumes that clients (and, in turn, their customers) demand.

High quality, high impact
The importance of high-quality production values is one of the fundamentals of effective marketing. It continues to be the key driver in delivering impact, brand affinity and shareability in communications, and differentiates a new breed of agency like Bark&Bite from the rest of the pack. Attracting and retaining the very best creatives, directors, animators, 3D artists and producers is crucial to their continued success because it ensures that everything they create is of a quality that their clients demand. 

This means that their work invariably delivers on brief, in terms of both commercial and brand objectives. And working directly with the client gives them the agility to move fast, adapt and iterate, negotiating complex processes such as Clearcast approval or station copy instructions for TV ads without breaking stride. The growth of video is making these exciting times for clients and agencies alike – as long as you’re with the right agency… without a leaky roof.

Q&A

Disruption versus innovation: the difference? I love being disruptive, but you can be disruptive without necessarily being innovative. You can also be innovative and go totally unrecognised for your efforts. Phillips are a good example as they are often first to market with tech solutions but as a consumer, you would never know it. If you can do both at the same time, you’re onto a winner.

What technology scares you? I’m not scared of tech – I’m scared of the shit application of good tech. 3D TVs: bad. 3D cinema: awesome. VR’s a better example. I’ve seen huge budgets spent on really weak experiential campaigns. At the opposite end of the scale, I’ve seen how VR has saved lives through health and safety training on oil rigs.

Which historic campaign would lend itself to a makeover using live action/motion graphics/CGI? That’s a really cool question. I was going to say the Smash ads from the 80s, but I watched them recently and they’re perfect. I would go Shake n’Vac. 


Christian Knowles-Fitton is managing director at Bark&Bite

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).