Ag*ncy. Ag*ncy. Ag*ncy. A case for keeping the dirty word around.

Liz Austin Bargain hunter and Upstate New Yorker (with the confusingly midwestern accent to prove it). Loves a challenge.

A recent article published by Adage has brought to light an agency shift… away from the word agency itself. Mirroring our own observations, this article states that many are opting instead for identifiers like consultancy, creative solution, and innovation company. The author writes that this trend is likely due to the word’s association with “overhead, talent costs, and time-based compensation” (and whether wrongful or deserved, it’s a real thing).

On top of this bad rap, the unpredictable economic outlook and rise of AI continue to result in consolidation and conservative spending, and a greater emphasis on thought (as opposed to design)… all things that seemingly challenge the traditional agency concept.

Considering the baggage and these cultural shifts then begs the obvious question, “why in the world would I want to be known as an agency?” 

We’re glad you asked. Here are 3 compelling arguments for keeping the dirty word around.

  1. Your audience

You’re an agency (or excuse me, an innovation company), so we’re guessing your audience is made up of Marketing Managers, Brand Managers, CMOs, and the like.

These people are likely later in their career, since they’re the point of contact for a budgeted spend. And while it has baggage, dodging the word agency with a group like this presents a challenge. It assumes that they are savvy, disruptive-minded, and willing to put their dollars behind a less proven, more ambiguous solution. Removing the word agency from your vernacular narrows your audience.

  1. Your future employees

We are living in an era of ultimate transparency—where watching your coworker share their innermost thoughts and recent visit to the dentist via socials is the norm. And with Gen Z (the best, bullshit radar-ed among us) beginning to enter the workforce, this call for realism is only guaranteed to grow. 

With this, it seems imperative to call a spade a spade. Who wants an agency in disguise? Much less to work for one. To this point, we are inclined to agree with 4A’s CEP, Marla Kaplowitz: “If it smells like an agency and it talks like an agency, it is an agency.”

  1. Your legacy

As with all trends, we must look to the trendsetters—the holding companies, the household names, the global behemoths. While we see a traditional mix of terminology and new-age identifiers, these companies are winning awards for being the “Best Advertising Agency” and “Best Media Agency.” They harken back to their founding stories, like in Ogilvy’s case, writing that “In 1948, David Ogilvy founded an advertising agency. We continue that legacy today.” 

So while your pitch shifts, and you courageously buck traditional industry expectations, consider longevity and your legacy. At the end of the day, what are you going to be known for, sought out for, and recognized for? 

Looking back, and as the AdAge article goes on to state, this very thing happened in 2011: the word agency fell out of style. However, we all know the end of the story. It bounced back. 

So, we’re sticking to our roots and keeping the dirty word around. After all, we know the secret sauce lies in continued value, exceptional creative thinking, and evolving with your partners over time. Not what you call it. 


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