1. Personal

A New Agency Golden Age

Who’s going to be the next Crispin Porter + Bogusky?

Four predictions:

1) It’s a shop barely anyone has heard of yet.

2) It will take about 3-5 years for them to start showing up on trades’ “rising star” and “hot list” roundups.

3) The pandemic will be a critical part of the founding story.

4) Regardless of the leadership composition of the next crop’s hottest shop, the peer set will look much more diverse than anything the ad industry has ever seen. You will see much greater Black, Latino, female, and LGBTQ leadership in particular.

I was thinking about this following a tweet from Aisha Hakim, a creative lead and ad community founder.

She shared Avi Dan’s Forbes article about the rise and fall of CP+B, a well-researched review of what led to their greatness and why the holding company model often suffocates those kinds of firms.

I can relate to the challenges. I was at one agency before and after it got acquired, and it defied odds and continued the hot streak for years. The next firm I was at was one of my favorite roles, but the challenges of being under a holding company didn’t mesh well with the entrepreneurial leadership.

Aisha tweeted, “It’s a damn shame there are only a hand full of indie shops left in advertising, and we should be mindful of what that means for brave work.”

My response: “There may be more indie shops emerging this year than ever. I think in 3-5 years, the best of those who chose to go indie or who were forced due to layoffs and furloughs will be hiring quickly and picking up the kinds of accounts CP+B are losing.”

This sums up my thesis with the four predictions.

There is so much talent out there right now that’s being underutilized. You have all these creative professionals — and by “creative,” I mean in the true sense of the word relating to all talent from buyers to account execs to analysts to office managers — who might be out of work already or are disenchanted with where they are.

A lot of this talent pool is good at one or two areas. They might be really great strategists who can also sell. They might be great marketers who excel at client service. They might be terrific analysts with a knack for putting together powerful decks. Few can do everything themselves to craft and grow the business they want.

A lot of the groundwork is happening today though. Shops that are further along are working with hotter verticals like e-commerce plays or categories that have grown during the pandemic. They might be more performance-driven at a time when branding feels like a luxury (not that it is).

Other shops that are solo efforts or a few people loosely collaborating are building their business models, service offerings, and go-to-market strategies. They’re finding their tribes. I encounter people like this all the time in Serial Marketers, and I’ve made some of these relationships myself that I think will create all kinds of value over the next decade. People in this mold are learning fast so that they are ready to take on more business in 2021 and can scale in 2022 and beyond.

Maybe some 50- or 100-person shop that has survived and thrived through 2020 will hit that hot streak sooner and be that household name in the ad industry by 2022 or 2023. But building a business from scratch rarely comes together as quickly as anyone expects it to. And many of the most resilient won’t just catch fire from one or two hot clients but will build for more sustainable growth, and that tends to take even longer.

Because more people are empowered than ever and have more role models and more robust support networks than ever, this next phase of growth will include so many of the kinds of people who’ve been marginalized in the past. Networks are being reshaped.

Just like how Vice President-elect Kamala Harris doesn’t look or sound like her predecessors (except maybe Teddy Roosevelt, who was a badass and rule-breaker in his own way, and Kaw Nation member Charles Curtis who served with President Hoover), there will be a lot of successful shops emerging that don’t look, sound, and feel like anything we’ve seen before.

That’s the long version of how these predictions will play out. When I write newsletter edition number 245 or 306, we’ll see how well I did.

Meanwhile, keep building. There is so much opportunity ahead, agencies will always be needed, and you have so many of the skills and so much of the talent you need to be part of this flourishing wave of creativity that’s coming.

To the extent Serial Marketers and I can help you get there, all the better. We are here for you.

That’s how I see 2025 looking. What do you make of these predictions? And what are you making of yourself?


PS: Want to find the collaborators to help you thrive in 2025? Join our speed networking session on Upstream tomorrow, November 12, at 12pm EST.


2021 Social Media Trends: What the Experts Say

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Bill, one of my favorite poets / reformed Silicon Alley curmudegeons, offers a quick video with 5 tips for PR success.

Thanks to Michael MarzanoClaudia StraussE.B. MossCandice GroblerKeren UnradJaimee KniffenChris GorgesDon SteeleRachel PasquaMatt Wurst, and William Alvarez, for spreading the word about the newsletter recently.

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