I predict that at least ten of these things will happen in the next 12 months. This is a little bit of a doomsday scenario but bear with me. None of these are totally ridiculous.
Agency charges for Google Ad Spend will go south of 10% as offshore suppliers continue to enter the market.
Adblockers will get even more effective and even more popular so that targeting younger people who use them most will become even less effective.
Clients will demand lower prices as they see more ‘supermarket’ offers from scaled offerings.
Lack of supply of qualified staff will reach crisis levels and will force agency costs up even further.
Qualified staff will jump ship for an extra 5p per hour or the offer of a weekly massage.
Clients seeking better value for money will try to push prices down.
Clients will see more commoditised offers via the ‘supermarkets’ e.g. via Chambers of Commerce, Trade bodies, and want ever lower prices.
Apps will be launched by small agencies and giant ad companies that will simplify Ad Spend decisions and platform choices to a handful of clicks on one screen: AI will do the rest.
Agencies sub-25 staff will struggle to win business with medium/large clients who want reassurance that their supplier will stay the course.
Agency owners sub-25 staff will start to close or sell for relatively low premiums as they lose the will to live.
Agency owners sub-25 staff will start to sell out to the seductive offers of agglomeration plays that will offer great multiplier valuations and access to stock market investment for a grouped together play.
Agencies will feel left out of the loop as they see Google, Facebook and Bing marketplaces and retailers connecting directly, leaving websites, etc out of the loop.
Agencies will spread their risk by trying to be experts in more than one or two of Google, Amazon, Bing, YouTube and Facebook platforms.
Google, Amazon, Bing, YouTube and Facebook will look and may find the killer app – it may well be speaking direct to retailers.
Continuing data scares will damage the credibility of Google, Amazon, Bing, YouTube and Facebook. There will be demands for tighter control and policing of the platforms. Each major political vote will bring greater awareness and objections.
The ability to manage and accommodate growth will become the key determinant of agency survival.
More cases of click fraud will be reported, creating an increasing uncertainty and a greater lack of trust; fraudulent traffic will become much discussed yet difficult to kill as one of many elephants in the room.
Clients will get more savvy. Better informed clients will become more demanding and less tolerant of average performance. Agencies that hide behind gobbledegook will be found out.
The whole gamut of political, economic, social, technological, legislative and environmental change will bear down and create increased client nervousness. Everything from Brexit to GDPR to Trump to Putin to an imminent banking collapse and/or housing price collapse in about 24 months.
China will become the market of choice for the more entrepreneurial; likewise, our market may prove popular for the Chinese.
More big consultancies will buy more marketing agencies, more marketing agencies will buy more digital agencies, more of the bigger digital agencies will buy more, smaller agencies and niche players.
More digital agencies will attempt to diversify and move away from pure performance and move towards broader (non-performance) brand and brand offerings.
More agencies will go bust than ever before.
Before you accuse me of being a total doom and gloom merchant might I point out the upside:
It will be a case of the survival of the fittest.
It will be a case of adapt or die.
Working on the business rather than just in the business will enable you to design and flex the business to respond to the tsunami of change heading towards you.
In every growing industry there is a shakeout. This is no exception. There needs to be one to get rid of the dross that currently damages the reputations of many fine agencies that are out there.
With so much market turbulence, there will be plenty of opportunities to merge or acquire other agencies.
With good staff becoming the premium asset, those agencies, the employers of choice, with great cultures will flourish.
As every trader/gambler/entrepreneur will tell you, there’s more money to be made in times of uncertainty than in times of certainty.
The money won’t be made from a ‘business as usual’ mentality but from the deals that you cut.
In a sea of mediocrity, it should be much easier to stand out. You just need to be 5% better than the rest.
Only those agencies that are above-average will be the winners. But not all of them.
There will be casualties. Just make sure you are not one of them. Remember, nature is brutally honest.
Is the glass half full or is it half empty?
The question is not how to survive but whether you are in the top 10%(?) who will reap the benefits of the layers of uncertainty. Figure out how you are going to do that.
Just be aware, the light at the end of the tunnel might be an express train heading straight for you!