What Sir Martin’s Predictions for 2016 Might Mean for Agency Relationships

A quick Google search reveals a library of 2016 predictions from Sir Martin including his opinion that Hillary Clinton is destined for the White House, thoughts on Brexit plus the rise and fall of various economies.

But of most relevant interest were his 10 trends on factors influencing agency relationships to look out for in 2016 appearing in Marketing.

Agency Relationships

Although relatively vague bullet points on a slide without the benefit of narrative or explanation, there were three that raised my eyebrows:

1 Overcapacity and shortage of human capital

This seems like a dichotomy that doesn’t auger well for the advertising labour market. Whenever there’s a shortage of talent, relationships inevitably suffer. Responding to increased cost pressure (see next point) usually leads to less man-hours or reduced cost of man-hours. Hiring fewer, less expensive talent usually accelerates a ‘race to the bottom’.

2 Relative power of finance and procurement – I’m assuming this means growing power and influence

Increased accountability is a necessary evil of modern business it nonetheless pits number-crunchers and negotiators against artists. Oil and water. But among Aprais clients(marketers and agencies) we have witnessed some signs of positive evolution.

On one hand, agency leadership are becoming better equipped to deal with procurement executives and their demands for accountability. On the other hand, procurement and finance executives are coming to realise that valuing human creativity (be it production or media creativity) must be treated differently to the cost of manufacturing widgets. This is particularly difficult for procurement execs whose performance is measured solely against cost-related KPI’s.

3 Global and local structures

Throughout my 30+ year involvement with this industry I’ve been amused by the see-saw argument about global/regional hubs vs decentralised structures? At the risk of seeming cynical, the arguments ‘for and against’ are inversely proportionate to whatever is the existing structure in place. Once business consultants get involved, change is inevitable. It is often in their self-interest to recommend the opposite structure and generate fees from affecting the changeover. Such structural change is usually accompanied by changes to the marketing teams and agency re-alignment. A sad fact, but true.


Sir Martin’s predictions hold some important consequences for agency relationships in 2016. But it should be said, none of them are particularly ‘new’, or surprising.