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A New Client-Agency Model

Uncovering next-generation partnerships powered by distributed working, co-location, and cutting-edge technology


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A new report on the evolving marketing ecosystem.

As the world moved into 2020, the marketing industry already knew that the old agency models weren’t working. Companies were selling globally, but too often marketing locally, creating massive inefficiencies and disjointed brand messages. The speed and agility of a continuous disruptive environment were eroding traditional relationships. The modern customer experience demanded closer collaboration from brands and agencies alike, yet it remained elusive. And then COVID-19 brought the world to its heels.

In an effort to understand what marketers need - and to suggest alternative approaches that may be better suited to the present and future marketing environment - in April and May of 2020 Wunderman Thompson undertook a qualitative survey to understand how brand leaders are responding to the current environment and preparing for the challenges that lie ahead.

We spoke to senior executives at some of the world's largest companies and most iconic brands, casting a broad industry net that included finance, CPG, automotive, technology, retail, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and telecommunications. The roles of our respondents embraced everything from sales and social to media, marketing, and operations.


A global model that delivers multiple campaigns in multiple markets came up time and again. Though, as examined in the report, significant barriers exist. Organizations have difficulty changing overnight, and there may be significant legacy systems and processes in place that will need to adapt and evolve. Whether it’s technology obstacles, lack of talent, or insufficient data, brands have many challenges to overcome. We’ve identified five success factors that are key to shaping the future of the industry:

Fostering Collaboration. Rather than working in separate teams, marketers are looking to create much more collaborative relationships both with agencies and other organizations inside the companies. This is occurring not only to build efficiencies but also to increase the spread of information and speed of delivery.

Embracing a Hybrid Model. A wide range of new models is blurring the line between agencies and brands, working in collaboration to combine the benefits of outsourcing and in-housing. For example, there is a growing trend toward building highly efficient, onsite bespoke agencies that can respond to client needs in a far more agile and intelligent way.

Efficiency and creativity. Efficiency and creativity are no longer seen as separate worlds. More than ever, brands are seeking to gain control of their message and customer experience, both locally and globally.

Insight and personalization. Increasingly, brands are seeing being globalized as a two-way street. Downstream, they are becoming ever more sophisticated about targeting, seeking to support more personalized journeys. Upstream, they are getting improved insight into large-scale trends and developments, which in turn enables them to sharpen their messages and increase the effectiveness of their communications.

Transformation focused on customer experience. Gone are the days of “spot solutions”. No single campaign based a big idea can sustain an organization for a marketing cycle. Because of the growing focus on the enduring excellence of the customer experience they offer, brands are transforming their technology stack and organizational structure to be far more unified, data-driven, and globally simplified.

There is no one-size-fits-all way of working in today’s complex marketplace. The fluid nature of this global pandemic will further test every brand’s ability to respond in an agile matter. In time, we will see which brands are ready and which must catch up rapidly in order to stay competitive, which actively seize the opportunity to transform and which fall by the wayside.

Cost and efficiency were important pre-COVID—but now they’re essential. Get the insights on how best to succeed in this new landscape.

Get insights on how best to succeed in this new landscape with A New Client-Agency Model report.

Wunderman Thompson Inside places teams permanently onsite, inside our clients' offices to take advantage of working in close proximity to the heart of the business. Creating bespoke solutions from the full range of Wunderman Thompson services, Inside draws on globally connected technologies, skills, partnerships, and expertise.

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