Every leader in the agency business is certain that the business model needs change but usually admits that the winning candidate is unclear. From my experience and analysis of the consulting and communication sectors, what seems to evolve most strongly is the Cogency Model — an abbreviation of Consulting Agency. As per the dictionary, the quality of being clear, logical and convincing defines the word cogency — values which are designed to escalate seamlessly in this integrated world of business.
It is necessary to note that remunerations excluded, both organisationally and individually, the worlds of consulting and agencies are remarkably similar, including the ruthless intensity of the pitching process. In terms of process and outcome, each has its special strengths, which are constantly leveraged to provide a client value proposition at an industry and an institutional level. Consultants are maestros at data analysis and deriving interpretations that elude the sharpest business teams, by dint of cross-category experience and training. Which then leads seamlessly to growth agendas, from the sharp lens of profitability and sustainability. Increasingly, the consultants are embracing last-mile execution, usually through dedicated in-house placements. Agencies, on the other hand, have a far sharper grip on consumer behaviour, a skillset that is insufficiently monetised or amplified. Additionally, they are squarely in the execution business, creative or media, and historically held accountable for the last-mile outcomes, not just the promise of a written document. Finally, the DNA of creativity, which when applied in the context of innovation or disruption, can play a more meaningful role than simply producing advertising.
Now, for a moment, examine the ever-evolving ‘client’ need states clearly applicable for both consultants and agencies. Performance pressures have increased enormously largely due to the virtual elimination of entry barriers, the exigencies of the digital age and the newer patterns of corporate ownership. As a result, the expectations from external partners have also evolved, a bias for implementation overriding the sufficiency of recommendation, partnership an operational necessity and not just a strategic buzzword. Success models will eventually replace time-cost calculations in tandem with the dissolution of client-vendor boundaries, creating an Integrated Eco-system. Which will enable the client to build shadow organisations across the board, from strategy to execution, uniting every force to create a profitable Brand Order. Strangely enough, the much-dismissed creative agency is temperamentally and culturally more suited for this scenario, than the premier consultant.
Welcome then to the Cogency Model, an experiential assimilation of creative agency and business consultant, the new-age communications partner. It will be primarily driven by the 3D framework — Derivation, Deviation and Destination. Not in a conventional linear sequence but every role performed across the value chain or departments as you please. Namely Strategy, Creativity, Implementation and Analysis — keeping it painlessly simple. Every business will of course have a Relationship Lead, emulating loosely the structure of Facebook (Individual Contributors and People Managers), who will play adhesive and managerial roles, but only after experience of the core functions.
So, how will this model fundamentally work? It will start with the Strategy Group, staffed by thought leaders from media, marketing and creative teams. They will derive inferences from rigorous data analysis, then proceed to deviate from the norm to achieve distinctiveness, finally arriving at destinations applicable to the brand brief. A process replicated by the Creativity teams, the subsets including advertising, digital, media and content. Then the Implementation unit consisting of Media Placement, Activations and every possible Go-To-Market unit. Finally, the Analysis team, a consulting best practice, almost an in-house Research wing that will automatically initiate a continuous tracking mechanism. In each of the four units, the 3D framework will work — Derivation, Deviation and Destination being rigorously applied to make this model shine.
What will certainly make this model work is the intelligent application of available resources, currently operating as rudderless actors in confused structures, blessing them with key attitudes and skill. Especially, a Strategy-first approach that will seamlessly connect the dots with BCG and Bain, while proceeding inspirationally and scientifically, to a path of sincere execution. Also, the breaking of linearity norms, every department following an identically rigorous process to garner cohesive outcomes, while instilling a culture of ongoing analysis. As the far-superior value of this system is clearly apparent, the remuneration structures will improve rapidly, enabling a virtuous cycle of better salaries and thus, better resourcing.
In my considered analysis, the Cogency Model is designed for success by intelligently tweaking the prevailing narrative, no need for life-altering disruptions. By collating the best practices of the consulting and the agency systems, catering to the same customer, it creates an equilibrium of delight, much overdue in this sea of sameness. If you want to apply this to your business do drop me a mail and I will tell you exactly how.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: email@example.com)
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