Agencies in 2023: crazy times lie ahead!

Whether new technologies, societal changes, and budget cuts: agencies face major disruptions in 2023. Although the year will be difficult, it will also be full of potential.

Opportunities and risks: agencies will be confronted with tough challenges in 2023.
Image: © Ant Rozetsky /

Challenges and potential for agencies in 2023

“What a time to have an agency!” was the name of the agency summit at DMEXCO 2022 in Cologne in September. At the summit, Stefanie Tannrath (CEO, Universal McCann), Kristian Meinken (Managing Director, Pilot Hamburg), Esther Busch (Managing Partner, Mediaplus Group), Anke Herbener (CEO, TWT Digital Group), Christian Wilkens (CDO, MediaCom), and Verena Gründel (Member of the Editorial Board, W&V) discussed the future of agencies. The one thing that stood out was that agencies will face some really tough challenges. At the same time, though, the future looks bright for them, as the summit name suggests.


So, we took a closer look at these challenges, how to solve them, and how to leverage the opportunities.

Agencies in 2023: shortage of skilled professionals

The alarm bells have been ringing for some time now but somehow haven’t been taken seriously. However, it can no longer be denied that it’s currently more difficult than ever to recruit suitable and competent staff.

“29 percent of respondents said that it is taking an average of three to six months to fill an advertised vacancy. Seven percent are needing more than half a year, and six percent of companies can no longer fill vacant positions at all. Only 22 percent find suitable personnel within two months,”

according to the results of our trend survey conducted in March 2022.

What does the shortage of skilled professionals mean for agencies?

For one thing, recruiting personnel will have to become more specialized: innovations, new methods, and even new areas where agencies search for employees will need to be adapted to the new circumstances.

Secondly, agencies will have to continue to appeal as a workplace, whether in terms of pay, working environment, or conditions. In this respect, agencies must stay modern and flexible. Agile processes can help here, but are not always easy to implement, particularly at larger agencies.

Demographics will also inevitably change the agency world: agencies urgently need to embrace the silver generation, i.e. people aged over 50. However, that has implications with regard to pay, working environment, and conditions. Everything is intertwined and mutually dependent.

Agencies in 2023: the search for a purpose

A job’s purpose will become even more relevant in 2023. This megatrend will not bypass agencies; quite the opposite, in fact. Agencies with a traditionally younger workforce will have to be much more transparent about why they work in the way they do and why they work with particular clients.

Purpose: the challenge is in the details

Reaching a consensus on what defines a purpose is almost impossible in practice. Agencies are and will remain service providers. The extent to which agencies can choose their clients obviously depends on the volume of orders they currently have. In this context, a specialization would help an agency refine its profile. Big players can afford to turn down projects. At the end of the day, though, full service means full service. Smaller agencies, on the other hand, have it easier when it comes to honing their profile, but they rely on a steady flow of orders. This challenge will intensify in 2023.

Agencies in 2023: sustainability

Sustainability is one of the most important buzzwords of our time. And just like purpose, it is one that is difficult to fill with distinct content. However, one thing is clear: we’re definitely seeing a shift toward a more sustainable world. Environmental aspects are obviously being referred to here. The transition to climate neutrality will therefore definitely be on the agenda for agencies. Switching to environmentally friendly technologies is one way of achieving this, but the term “sustainability” also covers anti-capitalism aspects, forming part of the ideals of new work. A climate-neutral society most probably won’t work under the usual market growth criteria. That will have an impact on personnel, too.

Sustainability means living and working within the limits of the system and not abusing those limits. Implementing that in day-to-day agency work will probably be on an individual rather than general level.

Agencies in 2023: to specialize or generalize?

Digitalization has really gained pace, making the agency world increasingly complex. Small and medium-sized agencies are consequently faced with the question of how to keep up with the big players and full-service agencies. Or maybe they don’t need to? Specialization comes with great opportunities but should be carefully considered.

On the other hand, new models are emerging for agencies to strike the right balance between generalization and specialization: in the form of freelancers. Only time will tell if that will actually work in practice.

2023 will throw agencies into a tech era shaped by blockchain, AI, & AR/VR

We’re already right in the thick of it: technology is turning existing working methods and ways of thinking on their head. And we’ve only seen the start. On the one hand, that means that agencies will need to adapt and keep up to speed. However, fundamental questions are also being raised: Do we still need creativity if AI and automated processes are more efficient and effective? Or: What does the use of tech in day-to-day agency work mean for the skillsets of employees?

At the same time, 2022 has ended with bad news from precisely this booming tech field. Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook are three top brands that have had their budgets significantly cut. That will also affect agencies, some of which will have to reposition themselves in 2023.


Conclusion: what a time to have an agency!

Times are challenging yet unbelievably exciting. Risks and potential are balancing themselves out and it’s all about creating individual and agile solutions – not just for clients, but also for the agencies themselves. We’re confident that agencies will continue to go from strength to strength. If any sector is going to manage to reinvent itself, it’s going to be the creative industry.

You can rewatch the DMEXCO panel “What a time to have an agency!” (only available in German)