An Innovative Approach to the Agency Model

business-model-innovationI just returned from a trip to my alma mater, University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where I participated in a day-long management conference. One of the sessions I attended focused on how to create and implement innovation within, and outside of companies. It was led by a panel who kicked off the discussion with some back and forth about how to recognize innovation. The consensus was that innovation occurs when additions or subtractions are made to products or processes that bring meaningful value to employee interactions or customer experiences. At Glue, we’ve always believed that our agency was different. But at that moment, by this definition, it became clear that Glue is also an innovation. Alan and I have purposely taken the traditional agency model and changed it. We’ve eliminated what we know doesn’t work for clients and added back the essential ingredients that were missing. I suppose it should be no great surprise that innovation comes not from the desire to innovate, but in response to an unmet need. Here’s are just some of the ways that Glue is innovative:

  • We have a hands-on culture. There are no excess layers.  We have no employees in senior roles––or any roles for that matter––who don’t work directly on client business. Anyone who hires us gets the benefit of our years of experience day in and day out. We don’t ask clients to pay for high-priced management they never see. Instead, we get deeply engaged in their critical strategic and creative issues from the start. We build brands alongside those we work with––and for.
  • The talent we can deploy is virtually unlimited. Because of our partnership with the lab and our network of experts, we have highly experienced teams at the ready. This is an on-demand, not a freelance model. The lab––our studio production partner––has animators, retouchers, videographers, digital strategists and developers who work full-time as an extension of the Glue team.  When we have a need, particularly in the digital development area, which many agencies outsource, we can turn to our right or left and find those people sitting right beside us. Similarly, our network gives us a whole host of entrepreneurially-minded sister agencies in areas such as access, PR, medical education, market research and digital and broadcast media.  Most of their leaders, like us, left big conglomerates because as they rose through the ranks, they became bogged down with operational responsibility and further and further removed from what they loved to do.
  • We are strong on strategy, creativity and execution. The reason is we don’t have mid-level employees. Our lead account and creative people are all senior, with a minimum of 10 years of experience. They are supported by agency producers––not junior-level account people––whose job is to flawlessly implement the work. With this structure, we have the right skills in the right places and an easy, effective communication flow both within our organization and back out to our clients. Our expertise at the top eliminates strategic and creative disconnects along with rounds of changes that often occur when too many of those involved are learning the ropes.  And our backbone is a group whose priority is to ensure that creative briefs, projects briefs, timelines, estimates, financial reconciliations, client changes and editorial oversight all get the attention that they deserve.

Does this sound innovative to you? To me, it just sounds sensible. But perhaps what I learned this past week is that Alan and I have been selling what we’ve created a bit too short.

For more examples of big-agency thinking, without the big agency, visit

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