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The year ahead for.independents.

Summary: Regional clients will realise that independent agencies can be effective in handling large budgets, argues Wassim Bassil

Last year was a really exciting year for the communication industry, especially for those of us who are independent. It was in 2012 that clients realised the potential of independent agencies and started venturing in partnering with them to create award-winning work that delivers business results.

The business outlook for independent agencies

In the past the scope of digital work up for grabs for independent agencies was good. In 2013 this scope will decrease as most non-independent agencies are either integrating or acquiring a digital offering. It remains to be seen which of these models will turn out to be successful. My prediction is that in the coming year holding groups will focus more on acquiring a digital offering instead of working on integrating this offering within their current structure.

With digital work shrinking for independent agencies, the near future is still bright as the potential for gaining more business has increased. We are now consider-ated part of the set of key players, and here's why.

Network agencies always benefited from global alignment, which locked most multination- al clients, but this seems to be changing. Global clients are now inclined to follow the model of assigning a lead agency in a key market and then leaving it for country management to choose an agency to handle a brand's local requirements.

In 2013,regional clients will realise that independent agencies can be quite effective in handling large budgets and agile in servicing it. Hence we will see more independent agencies winning large accounts.

Coming from the old continent

This year adspend across northern, central and most of Western Europe will be stagnant, with ad- vertisers seeking clarity on the state of the Eurozone.

With that in mind, some independent agencies in the old continent are looking for business elsewhere. The Middle East and the US are the two options they may be considering.

What would be exciting would be the emergence of a new type of independent agency in our region - creative technologists. Quite popular in Europe, such agencies were initiated in Scan- dinavian countries and their offering can help both agencies and clients better integrate technology in their creative thinking. They will also bring to the market much-needed innovation, which will eventually be felt by the end consumer.

Content will still be king

In 2012 our region saw the introduction of pre-roll videos. This medium has proven to be quite efficient as it is visually stimulating (much better than the traditional banners) and can drive CTR if content is interesting.

Video offers greater retention and up to five times greater re- call than print, according to Tube Mogul. Innovators are now combining dynamic content into video, creating super-rich consumer experiences that capture attention. Last year showed that for many marketers, content continues to be a bottleneck for their digital marketing initiatives regardless of the channel. Internal traditional content creation efforts simply are not scaling with the pace of today's on- line channels.

This year, I predict that marketers will be forced to go out- side of their comfort zone to find scalable ways to produce content that can fuel their marketing programs. Some may try out- sourcing content creation. Some are creating new roles within their organisation to tackle this. Others may attempt to crowd- source content creation among their user base.

There is no online and offline

The physical world will continue to intersect with the internet in a major way this year. In 2012 we saw that this intersection has a much healthier engagement ratio than in online only activations.

We will be seeing more point- of-sale to mobile in 2013.Physical activations that generate socially rich content and interactive digital displays will be used by advertisers to bring their ideas to life.

Agencies need to seriously consider such channels, especially for campaigns that ask users to generate content. In the Middle East such tools have a much healthier engagement ratio than pure online activations.

Scarcity of talent

War over talent will reach new heights in 2013, as agencies are not only fighting over talented individuals but are now looking for specific skills, mainly digital, that are scarce within the pool of potential candidates. Those skilled and talented individuals will be inclined to work with non-independent agencies that are offering them financial pack- ages beyond their market value.

Independent agencies will depend on their agency culture and reputation to attract such talent, and will most probably end up attracting junior to mid-level talented individuals in the hopes of growing them within.

Finally, it is safe to assume that the future looks bright for all independent agencies out there. I hope that 2013 will be a positive one for all agencies, regardless of their affiliation.As long as we are all focused on doing great work that impacts our clients' businesses, 2013 will be the year of great client briefs and outstanding creative.

'Marketers will be forced to go outside of their comfort zone to find scalable ways to produce content that can fuel their marketing programs'

Wassim Bassil is managing partner of Interesting Times

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Publication:Campaign Middle East
Date:Jan 13, 2013
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