New agency model needed

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Toyota's recent move to put its agency work in-house is one more case of businesses' need for a radical shift in the way they interact with agencies and internal ad teams overall. For the last 2-3 years people have been touting the idea of the integrated agency, but the true breakdown of silo walls is still a work in progress. Particularly when it comes to merging budget line items and ceding control over dictating media spend.

A less talked about issue is the one that may have spurred Toyota's shift -- the walls between a client and an agency when it comes to business and strategy. I've had an increasing number of conversations with agencies that tell me their most successful relationships in today's downturn revolve around complete transparency and strategic consulting. This is a case where agencies are being honest about their upfront costs and offering business advice in addition to (what traditionally might be considered) pure marketing. The client is being honest about theeir budget allocations, projections and priorities for various projects.

Sounds like a perfect world. But is business really taking place like this on a large scale? And more importantly, if this kind of whole-world view is what marketers are expecting from their agencies and ad team - why not bring them all in-house? My question is not rhetorical, I'm interested in anyone who has a solid defense for external agency teams in a market requiring full transparency.

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