That's it, I've had it: It's time to banish the word 'agency' to history

Will Pyne

How many times have you heard this question over the years?

What kind of agency are you?

Invariably some chichi exec replies:

“Oh you know, I guess we’re a client-first, cross-media, multi-channel, brand and creative communication agency, specialising in conceptual strategies that cut through social paradigms.”

Here’s my suggestion: let’s stop worrying about what sort of “agency” we label ourselves. Why not focus on how we behave in order to become a truly contemporary communications company? Because ultimately, that’s what we should all be aiming for.

The dictionary definition of an agency suggests to me we should leave the term behind:

“A business or organisation providing a particular service on behalf of another business.” Ugh.

Today, there’s so much crossover – a rapid evolution of what we can offer – that the definition is outmoded.

Media agencies take on creative work; creative agencies are on the buy side; consulting firms are getting all creative. Not to mention almost everyone (at least claiming) to dabble in influencer marketing. We’re all at it.

Then let’s think about the modern client. Aren’t they now more of a partner? Sure, they’re paying you to deliver something. But the process of getting to that something is now far more often a collaborative one. Or at least, that tends to get better results, in my experience.

The upshot? We’re becoming pretty hard to define. At least in a few words.

So let’s all start thinking about how we behave as a business, and you know what, others will soon decide what sort of company you are.

After all, it’s about how we behave, how we do the doing, rather than how we describe ourselves. Let’s be honest, we’re all a little bit tired of “agency” websites that explain in grandiose terms how they go about “changing the world of their clients” and how they are so, so different from every other agency out there. Nonsense.

Here are my five steps to becoming a company that cares more about how it behaves than how it pigeonholes itself.

No-door policy

Let’s allow for better and freer communication across departments and teams, between the senior and the not-so-senior. It’s time we finally put to bed the Mad Men culture of seniority and boundaries.

Unnecessary job titles

How many times have you walked into an “agency” which has utterly nonsensical, long winded, or paradoxical titles? Heads of Innovation, I’m looking at you. If you need a Head of Innovation rather than allowing this to come through the ranks (from frankly anywhere), then you might just be in a spot of trouble.

Give them a voice

Give power to the people, and don’t harbour the glory.

Give young employees a chance to offer up and own their ideas, ensuring they get the recognition they deserve in and outside the office. This will make them even better people. Take risks, show them you have faith in them. Let that junior exec stand up and deliver part of your pitch.

Get away from your desk

At Brave Bison (not an agency before you ask) we recently secured a warehouse production facility, Yellowstone Studios – a place where we can prototype and create video content for the channels we own and the brand partners we work with.

It’s been the most refreshing move. Everyone is welcome: staff, brands, creators, the whole lot. If you want collaboration, the right space helps.

Stop defining yourself

Who cares what you label yourselves as? Behave like a progressive, creative, modern business that cares about its people as much as it does its partners and the bottom line, and others will work out what kind of business you are.

Will Pyne is chief creative officer at Brave Bison.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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