The Fall of Ad Agencies and the Rise of the HMP

From Websters:

ho-lis-tic: adjective

Characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

Let’s get something straight from the start, I have both owned and worked with ad agencies throughout my career and there are still many that have some the best “idea factories” money can buy. The problem is that the advertising agency model itself or the use of “ad” as the basic foundation for marketing is now only one of a hundred components in a well structured marketing effort.

For marketing in the here and now a more “holistic” approach is required, one that brings together multiple functions and services, treating them more like individual apps in a single marketing cloud. The difference is that these functions still require human creativity and innovation to drive their development, integration within the greater strategy and deployment to a coordinated set of predetermined engagement channels.

But “pitch” to a client? Like an episode of Mad Men? Speak only in brand? Speak only of direct response or SEO or social or any single pathway to the customer’s heart?


Just as your clients should be wanting to “engage” their customers at a greater depth so should the firms who aid them with that engagement approach their clients as potential partners, not just an opportunity to “pitch” a campaign. There are just too many channels now for the more simplistic brand and advertising strategies of the past to work.

And don’t think for a minute that the traditional channels are completely dead or ever will be. With all the talk of TV ads being dead, infomercials are a bigger business than ever. Considering you still run video ads when folks view content online, and the numbers watching that way are also growing daily, the “television” commercial is still with us just running on a few more channels. Billboards have gone digital and radio is still showing positive ROI in many specific local applications. Print at street level is indeed weak but there has been a marked rise in print ad ROI in niche print publications that appeal primarily to higher income customers. The rest of the print outlets have simply stopped killing trees and gone digital themselves.

All of the rest are in the new tech and social channels with mobile devices factoring heavily in how you choose to build your web and to drive more direct mobile based customer engagements (mobile apps for example).

Long and short term strategies should still be built on the back of comprehensive data and experience based knowledge of target audiences. The art of demographics is still in there but it comes in variations that are more detailed and sufficiently nuanced to facilitate a one-to-one understanding of each customer not just large, generalized groups. You could think of it as a self-sorting segmentation tool that has its own ability to learn and refine the knowledge down to the individual customer’s level. This is over time so its learning curve has to be accounted for in the long term strategy and forgiven in the short term measurements.

The data derived from these exercises has to have equally near real-time analysis and tactics in place to act on refined customer data in near real-time. This leads to the need for marketing automation and more direct marketing ties to sales and sales mechanisms. In other words it all has to work in concert not just as individual parts with “hand-offs” in between.

Hence the rise of the “Holistic Marketing Practice” (HMP). Part old style creatives, part tech crazy geeks, part stiff collared number crunching data miners, part nurturer, part closer, and all one cohesive effort with as few “generals” as possible. A marketing and sales machine that can be “characterized by comprehension of its parts as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.”

BTU is such a practice and we partner with you in efforts that go well beyond a simple ad agency scope and approach. Big or small. Long term or just a helping hand. We’d love to hear your story and see if we can make a difference. Give us a call when you’re ready.