The agency model has long been a cornerstone of company operations in business and commerce, particularly in sectors like advertising, marketing, and consulting. However, as technology continues to disrupt traditional paradigms and consumer behaviors shift, questions arise about its viability.

Understanding the Agency Model

To explore this topic, let’s first understand the agency model. Traditionally, agencies serve as intermediaries between clients and specialized services. They offer expertise, creativity, and resources that clients may not possess in-house. Whether crafting brands or compelling ad campaigns, executing marketing strategies, or providing consulting services, agencies have played a vital role in helping businesses reach their goals. From strategic planning to advanced tools and technologies, marketing agencies bring a wealth of experience, an unbiased viewpoint, and strategic insight. Helping businesses navigate the complex landscape of modern marketing.

Perceptions of the Agency Model

However, several factors have contributed to the perception that the agency model might decline. One significant catalyst is the democratization of technology, more recently including AI. With the rise of user-friendly digital tools and platforms, businesses now have unprecedented access to resources that were once exclusive to agencies. For instance, social media management platforms allow companies to schedule posts, analyze metrics, and engage with their audience without relying on an external agency. With the addition of AI, from chatbots to predictive analytics and automation, marketing has become even more democratized.

Moreover, the gig economy has enabled individuals with specialized skills to operate independently, bypassing the traditional agency structure. Freelancers, consultants, and creative studios can now offer their services directly to clients, often at competitive rates and with greater flexibility. This trend has led some to question the necessity of agencies when they can hire talent on an as-needed basis tailored to their specific needs.

Additionally, the shift toward digital marketing and e-commerce has forced agencies to adapt rapidly. Traditional advertising channels like print, television, and radio have given way to online platforms, where engagement rules constantly evolve. Agencies must continually update their skill sets to remain relevant in this dynamic landscape and stay abreast of emerging technologies.

The agency model has been adapting to these changes to survive, but how does this affect creative output? Suppose we observe the changing dynamics of technology and consumerism and their impact on modern marketing agencies. Pursuing creativity within the agency model is now more akin to extracting resources like industrial farming.

Extracting Creativity

When engaging with marketing professionals and creatives personally, there is a sense that many feel undervalued and malnourished within the agency model. “I feel used, burned out, and as if when I am no longer useful, I will be quickly discarded and replaced by someone new and naive.” Or, “You couldn’t pay me enough to continue to do this to myself.” This is what creative extraction feels like for individuals in today’s agency environment. Extracting creativity is the process of drawing creativity out of individuals or teams to the point of depletion, which is problematic for several reasons:


Creativity is a profoundly personal and intrinsic trait. When creativity is “extracted” rather than naturally nurtured, it can lead to inauthentic or forced ideas that lack genuine innovation or passion.

Diminished Ownership

Creativity flourishes when individuals feel a sense of ownership and autonomy over their ideas. When creativity is not allowed to emerge organically, employees may feel disconnected from their work and less motivated to contribute their best ideas.

Creative Block

It can lead to anxiety and mental blocks that inhibit innovation. Creativity thrives in environments of freedom, where individuals have the space to explore ideas without expecting immediate results.

High Turnover

Employees may become disengaged or seek opportunities elsewhere, resulting in high turnover detrimental to the agency’s culture and productivity.

Quality of Work

Forced creativity may result in subpar work quality. When individuals feel pressured to produce creative ideas on demand, they prioritize quantity over quality or rely on superficial, clichéd solutions rather than innovative ones.

Stifled Innovation

Creativity thrives in environments that foster curiosity, experimentation, and risk-taking. Creativity extracted through rigid processes or expectations discourages individuals from exploring unconventional ideas or challenging the status quo.

Negative Impact on Well-being

Burnout, stress, and anxiety are consequences of environments that prioritize output over the well-being of their employees.

Agencies have attempted to address creative extraction and its impact on human resources. If the business model itself is extractive, can it survive?

Industrial Farm

Industrialization of Creativity

In industrial farming, mechanization and monoculture have replaced traditional farming practices. This has resulted in high yields and the adverse effects of environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity. Similarly, modern marketing agencies have embraced industrialized approaches to creativity, with streamlined processes, standardized workflows, and an emphasis on efficiency. This relentless pursuit of productivity comes at the expense of creative autonomy and inspiration, leading to a culture of burnout among creatives. Our crops have lower essential nutrients. The ideation process is less creative. As we transform both systems, we must acknowledge that we will swim in this culture for years.

Monoculture Mentality

Monoculture crops refer to agricultural systems where large land areas are dedicated to growing a single crop species for commercial purposes. Just as monoculture crops are vulnerable to disease and pest outbreaks, marketing agencies that promote a monoculture mentality prioritize conformity over diversity of thought. And limit the potential for new ideas and fresh perspectives. Creatives may feel pressured to conform to established norms and styles. This stifles their creativity and leads to disillusionment and burnout.

The Pressure to Produce

Industrial farming relies on intensive farming practices to maximize yield, often at the expense of soil health and long-term sustainability. Similarly, marketing agencies may pressure creatives to produce a constant stream of high-quality work, regardless of its toll on their mental and emotional well-being. Tight deadlines, demanding clients, and an “always-on” mentality can lead to burnout and diminished creativity over time.

Extractive Practices

Industrial farming extracts nutrients from the soil without replenishing them. Marketing agencies may extract creativity from their teams without providing the necessary support and resources for replenishment. The expectation is to constantly churn out ideas and produce results without adequate rest or opportunity for creative rejuvenation. This extractive approach to creativity can lead to depletion and disillusionment.

Exhausted Resources

Like a finite resource, creativity is not boundless. These resources have a finite supply that can be exhausted if utilized at a rate faster than their natural replenishment processes. Yet, there’s a prevailing myth within many agencies that creatives possess endless ideas waiting to be tapped immediately. This misconception can lead to unrealistic expectations and place undue pressure on creatives to constantly produce, regardless of their mental or emotional state. The result? Burnout is an all-too-common reality as creatives struggle to sustain the expected creative output.

Is the marketing agency model dying? Spoiler alert: It’s dead, and it will eat your brains if we don’t unite to fight it.

Small Sustainable Farm

Cultivating Creativity: The Road to Regenerative Marketing

Consumers and businesses are increasingly aware of these issues. So, there is a growing demand for sustainable and ethical alternatives to factory-farmed products. They are also mindful of the problems with the agency model for marketing their business. Transitioning from output and efficiency at all costs mindset to a balanced and sustainable system will take time. Regenerative agriculture, for instance, involves supporting small-scale farmers to work towards a more sustainable and resilient food system. A system that respects the well-being of animals, humans, and the planet. The same can apply to the marketing agency model.

Adopting Sustainable Practices

That said, some marketing agencies have adopted more sustainable practices to break free from the extractive paradigm and foster a culture of creativity and innovation. These practices include prioritizing employee well-being, promoting work-life balance, and providing opportunities for creative exploration and growth. By cultivating a supportive and nurturing environment, agencies seek to empower their teams to unleash their creative potential while limiting burnout or exhaustion. Can factory farms adopt practices that will reduce the effects that an extraction mindset produces? Yes. Will this make factory farms sustainable? No. Sustainable practices are a bridge to a sustainable business model. 

Addressing Specialization and Fragmentation

Initially, the agency’s challenges were the lack of agility and the fragmentation of expertise in digital marketing. Fragmentation of expertise is where knowledge becomes increasingly specialized and compartmentalized within specific disciplines. As human knowledge expands and disciplines become more advanced, individuals within those fields tend to focus on narrower and narrower areas of study. This specialization leads to fragmentation, where experts become deeply knowledgeable in their particular niche but may have limited understanding or awareness of broader interdisciplinary connections or implications. Being aware of these challenges allows agencies and creative teams to address them. Addressing these challenges often requires efforts to promote interdisciplinary collaboration, encourage broader thinking, and bridge the gaps between specialized areas of expertise.

Next, the mass exodus of creative talent from marketing agencies following the pandemic signaled the final blow to the agency model. Yet, many agencies have managed to survive and thrive on old practices. Considering this, along with obstacles such as the lack of agility and the fragmentation of expertise, the marketing agency model is like a season of The Walking Dead. There are constant threats and challenges; they must retain clients and talent in an increasingly competitive landscape, build alliances with other agencies, and, last but not least, address moral and ethical difficulties that could cannibalize the business.

Specialized Agencies Partnering with Small Farms

Ultimately, the agencies that adapted to the changing landscape survived even while the business model collapsed. Some agencies have begun to partner with smaller creative houses to combat the obstacles associated with a lack of agility and the fragmentation of expertise. The marketing landscape is unpredictable and can shift like a zombie herd. These alliances help fortify the walls and preserve creativity while we rebuild and transform the culture. What will happen to the ones who live? We hope these partnerships continue to grow and evolve, rendering the agency model a relic in the extreme consumerism time capsule. We’re seeing a shift towards more flexible, agile, and client-centric marketing approaches. This involves smaller, more specialized agencies or creative teams partnering with in-house teams to deliver tailored solutions that meet each client’s unique needs.

Here at Verve Creative Studio, we mean it when we say we are a collaborative creative studio. Our services and practices represent an anti-extractive paradigm that values creativity and those who nurture and cultivate this finite resource. We partner with in-house teams to provide tailored social media marketing solutions.

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