There's been much tut-tutting over the years about the disappearance of the full service agency. Sure there are a handful still around, but by and large the creative + media + account services + strategy shop that Darren Stevens ran back on Bewitched has gone the way of real chrome bumpers and smoking on airplanes. The dissolution of that model has of course spawned vertical entities that specialize in everything from planning to buying to creative to digital to strategy. But along the way, perhaps something got lost as well.
Flash forward to 2010 and that old "get close to the client's strategy and do it all for them" seems to be making a comeback. Only instead of names like Ogilvy, Thompson and Ayer, the names on the doors of these new agencies might read Meredith, Hearst and Conde Nast. This week's news about Hearst's acquisition of iCrossing and Conde Nast's development of video creative for Kenneth Cole underscore the continual quiet development of serious strategic, media, creative, digital and even social media chops among publishers. Meredith Corporation just may have some of the deepest capabilities of all, highlighted by it's growing service relationships with companies like Chrysler and others.
A few examples don't necessarily a trend make, but it would be foolish to dismiss the real economic and business sense this all makes. Already pulled headlong into new creative, data and media capabilities by the onset of the digital age, media companies are loathe to stay in the corner and leave the services business to consulting firms and agencies. In an age where old models and structures are getting shredded anyway, why not step over the lines and become the new generation agency? If you believe, as I do, that all 21st century marketing is going to be built tightly around existing consumer behavior and audiences, then ask yourself who is closer to that behavior and those audiences than the media company?
I'm just sayin.....