Today’s creative agency is on a different plain to that of the whisky-swilling “Mad Men” of yesteryear.

Advances in technology are drastically changing how things are done in creative agencies, with algorithms, digital tools and production software replacing the trusty typewriter, pen or hard-copy spreadsheet.

What are the latest technological advances transforming agency life? Let’s take a look;

#1. Design tools (for non-designers)

Content is being created more now than ever before, and visual content plays a huge role. In-house designers aren’t always available for every graphic or piece of visual content needed, but new design tools are here to help (even for the average Joe who doesn’t work for an agency and isn’t a designer).

With the pressure to achieve speed to market (we outline this further below), agency teams need to find new ways to get visually attractive reports or presentations created without sitting in a designer backlog. Tools such as Canva, Piktochart, and Pixlr have created simple platforms, full of templates and tips that assist “non-designers” to create professional-looking presentations.

Technology is blurring the lines between specialist roles and allowing for more crossover, or even the development of new skills by following digital-based instruction. It is answering to the demand that “things get done” and that agencies deliver a timely response.


“Mad Men” Source: AMC

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#2. Customized Digital Portfolios

If you have a relatively large body of work, you’re going to take the time to ensure that prospective clients see what is relevant to them, right? This was one of those tasks that would have taken hours to put together in the old days, possibly even using Keynote or older versions of Powerpoint.

You would have had no choice but to manually sort through your portfolio items and add what you thought would be relevant as you went along. Technology is here to help, as it shaves hours off this task for agencies.

Rather than a daunting manual task of putting together customized portfolios, there are now tools to help you create them quickly . Samplr is one tool that agencies are using to streamline the process of creating customized portfolios. It’s drag-and-drop interface allows a presentation to be created in minutes, while collections organized by topic keep it simple to find relevant work samples.

#3. Collaborative Software

Agency teams are finding better ways to communicate, collaborate and share the information needed to fulfill creative projects. Anyone who is still losing files on hard drives is so 10 years ago! Cloud technology has introduced many software options for file sharing and collaboration, with agency requirements being no exception.

Part of the challenge in the past has been the sheer size of files that agency teams need to share. Videos, vectors, presentations, graphics – all of these need to be visible to anyone in the team who requires access.

Fortunately, collaborative software has come a long way, with more and more bandwidth available to suit agency needs. An example of this can be seen in tools like Hightail, which allows teams to share, review and approve creative content. This takes the place of “lost” emails in buried inboxes or any other more low-tech approaches to collaboration.

#4. Speed to Market

“Agencies today have to achieve in hours what they used to do over weeks.” (The Guardian). In this digital era, speed to market is important otherwise the campaign may well be dead in the water before it even began.

When you look at trends such as newsjacking (remember Oreo’s timely tweet during the blackout of the 2013 Superbowl?), it makes sense that agencies need to be on top of current trends within minutes or hours, rather than weeks.

Technology is making that happen too. Mark Singleton, the head of sportbook marketing at Paddy Power describes how they were able to take a head-butting incident in a football match, react within half an hour and have print ads going out in the following day’s papers.

“To be able to turn around a press ad at half past four in the afternoon and for it to be in the papers the next morning is fantastic, it wouldn’t have happened four or five years ago,” said Singleton. “The rise of digital means you can be incredibly fast,” he added.

Flattened hierarchy

The traditional “Mad Men” hierarchical structure simply doesn’t work in today’s agency where speed to market is a huge necessity. If teams are working in silos and projects are held up due to a need for “approval” from higher up, windows of opportunity will be missed.

This means that structures are becoming flatter as agencies look for ways to improve their efficiency without sacrificing creativity. You may still see some that are working on how their structure will look, but it is predicted that the agency of the future will be much more democratic.

#5. Relevance to Market

Technology has certainly tightened how we reach audiences and who sees what we have to offer. While traditional approaches certainly aren’t dead for agencies, technological advances such as our ability to harness big data and use predictive analytics have honed the way we segment and target audiences.

As this Marketing Land article discusses, the concept of predictive analytics has actually been around for years, with marketers using some kind of data to analyse past performance and try to make accurate predictions for the future. The difference now is the sheer volume of data available, which allows for better accuracy.

For example, creative agencies are better able to:

  • Create detailed buyer personas
  • Create more personalized messages that better target those people
  • Create more sophisticated data segments

The pressure is on to achieve maximum reach to relevant audiences at quicker speeds, but technology is spurring agency’s ability to get this done.

“Predictive intelligence can empower marketers to be better at what they are already doing and to focus where the buyers are. Getting started doesn’t require a sophisticated environment. What is needed is baseline data from your marketing and sales organization. And many of today’s tools integrate easily within the existing marketing stack.” (Marketing Land).

#6. The Buzzfeed Affect

Buzzfeed is more than addictive quizzes and clickbaity headlines – they’re staffed by some very talented data scientists who know their stuff when it comes to getting content found and read.

As Mad Marketer explains, Buzzfeed’s technology is affecting how agencies make decisions and get work done. For example, their Hive data initiative helps marketers discover exactly what content goes viral so that they can make decisions tailored to each marketing platform.

Their Swarm app is allowing agencies access to cross-channel marketing over Buzzfeed’s own highly trafficked assets. This is giving agencies reach directly where the customers are.

Lastly, the fact that Buzzfeed produces such high volumes of content means that they are continually able to test and refine. Agencies can learn the strategies that Buzzfeed decides upon.

7 key tools for agencies – check them out here

Final Thoughts

Agencies have come a long way from those “Mad Men” visions of a golden age of advertising. Technology is leading the charge and changing the way work gets done.

Three key effects are speed to market, relevance to the market and reach. More than ever before, agencies need to be in front of prospects quickly and to have targeted their message well to a specific segment.

Technology is also boosting collaborative abilities in agencies, which in turn helps to facilitate that speed to market. New tools are allowing teams to share ideas or even create things for themselves where once a specialist would have had to do the job.

The future is only getting more data and technology-driven – pass the whiskey!