According to the articles, Forrester is stating that consumers don't trust the mass marketing messages cranked out by agencies and brands any longer. Instead, they are turning to family, friends and peers within their communities to help inform their purchasing decisions.
The report is also saying that to survive, agencies are going to have to change their ways from sending out one-way messages to taking part in communities and conversations. They go as far as saying that an example of this would be, "agencies comprised of community members – mothers for example, who would help, say, Procter & Gamble to play a constructive role within communities of other mothers."
Forrester believes creative and media agencies are lagging behind in truly integrating digital into their capabilities, quoting an unnamed client-side marketer as saying, "Most senior ad execs appear more comfortable with conventional channels, which they claim are 'integrated' because they have tacked on a website."
They state that digital agencies have a better understanding of how to deliver more "interactive" experiences but aren't competitive with the more traditional shops when it comes to branding skills.
Peter Kim, a Forrester Research analyst and co-author of the report, believes that there isn't an agency out there right now that represents what the agencies of five to 10 years from now will look like.
"I don't think agencies are going away," Kim said. "They're going to be the ones that help marketers to communities of mutual interest."
I completely agree that many agencies are out of touch and need to learn how to facilitate and participate in the conversations taking place vs. interrupting them. I'm also not surprised that they found people are distrustful of advertising and marketing messages as a whole. However, I don't believe the answer is an agency of mothers working with Proctor & Gamble to help them better communicate with this segment.
The answer, in my opinion, lies in agencies and their clients learning to look at things from a new perspective. Instead of looking at what brands can tell people, we instead need to be looking at what brands can do for people. How are people really using the products or services of your client? What are they actually saying about them? (No, not what they say in focus groups. What they really say about them.) What do they wish they could do better? What could brands do to make peoples' lives better/easier/happier/etc.?
It also means agencies and their clients need to start spending more time with the people who buy and use their products and services - both in the real world and where they spend time online. While communities and social networks are growing and expanding more and more every day online, people still do have lives outside of their computers and only looking at them through the monitor will not give you an accurate picture for how to create positive change.
Overall, a more collaborative model needs to take shape. One that more openly involves the interested parties in the process from the creation/evolution of products and services through how they are then communicated to the world. Instead of companies largely creating their products/services in isolated towers and agencies creating communications in theirs, both seeking only limited input from the people who will actually be on the receiving end of them, we are going to need to be more open and seek greater input and dig for richer insights with the people who actually use the products/services and receive the communications around them.
More thinking on this to come...
For some interesting thoughts on new ways of approaching things, here is some thinking on marketing as a service and here is some more looking at using the idea of Transformation Design in terms of marketing.
Download the WARC article as a PDF.
Download the ADWEEK article as a PDF.