Tag Archives: advertising agencies

Traditional and digital agency integration: adapt or die

1 Oct

I had a beer and chat with a specialist consultant, who is doing phenomenally well working with agencies, helping them integrate digital agency expertise into what we’d know as traditional marketing disciplinary departments (advertising, PR etc). We spent a great deal of our time together discussing the various pitfalls associated with this issue – and the nuances surrounding traditional and digital agency integration.

The conversation went along the lines of me expressing huge surprise that the agencies we discussed (some of them very large indeed) were having such a tough time properly integrating their traditional and digital creative propositions. In addition, my drinking partner pointed out that a lot more agencies are fearful of this issue than people in our industry are led to believe. Surprised? I was. To be clear, what he meant by this was that a great deal of agencies offering integrated traditional/digital services, are either doing it wrong or making it up as they go along (and subsequently struggling).

I freely admit that I/we had to take my own agency back to school for some serious re-education since setting up in late 2010. Specifically, this was in the areas of social commerce, inbound and content marketing. Whilst the agency has grown from strength-to-strength in terms of providing traditional creative solutions for brands, I’ve had to open my mind to the new possibilities available via the ever-changing landscape of digital (online) marketing and learn how best to offer an integrated online/offline portfolio of products to our clients. From a viewpoint that we needed to redesign a product offering that integrated our creative output with modern inbound marketing concepts.

I’m of the opinion that as long as agencies refer to their ‘online’ and ‘offline’ service lines as completely separate propositions and disciplines, and as long as they have teams for each, who don’t fully understand each others’ skill-sets, they put themselves in grave danger of being overtaken by the following:

  1. Traditional agencies that have not knee-jerkingly repositioned themselves as a ‘digital creative agency’, but have adapted their already strong creative output to include digital channels;
  2. Active and entrepreneurial digital agencies, whose entire business models have been built on rapid evolution and adaptability – thus they are well-placed to simply enhance their own propositions by employing teams of flexible brand creatives who can effectively then work within digital media channels.
Clearly, the above has already happened on a grand scale. Clearly it will continue to happen. Clearly I’ve already done it, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog. However, many agencies still haven’t and I’m led to believe that many larger agencies are struggling with it, due to their size and cultures (the old adage about turning oil tankers being at the forefront of my mind).
From my perspective, the interesting question is which agency is better placed to do this? Let’s look at the issues surrounding each:

Your traditional agency…

  • Likely has a management and strategy team with years of experience in producing traditional above-the-line creative (TV, press, outdoor, DM etc);
  • Has a creative team with core skills set around traditional advertising;
  • Has an account management team similar to the above (with less industry experience);
  • More than likely has a Creative Director over 35, who doesn’t have a social media account and spends less than 20 mins online per day;
  • Has little understanding of new, digital media channels, and/or is very much from an old-school interruptive advertising background (i.e. used to advertising at people). With that in mind, they might stretch to producing online display ads…

 

Your digital agency…

  • Likely has a management and strategy team, the majority of which are all under 40 – either an entire career (of under 10 years) in digital (granted, there are also be plenty of those former traditional marketers who saw the opportunity early);
  • Has two teams; one made up of digital designers, the other made up of developers/coders;
  • More than likely has a Creative Director under 35 and is less likely to be from an advertising/campaign creation background;
  • Probably has a team with similar skills – none of which are campaign creators or brand thinkers. More likely designers and developers.

Sweeping generalisations? Before you shoot me, yes of course I’m generalising and I know there are exceptions to the aforementioned. However…

So which agency is better placed to get ahead? Traditional agencies ‘dabbling’ at digital, or digital agencies that are developing creatively? I have to say it’s the latter. I believe that digital agencies, by their (youthful) nature, are infinitely more agile. I also believe they have the upper hand due to the fact their core skill set includes digital marketing futurology. In addition, the majority of decent digital agencies are in the throws of developing their own in-house creative teams.

But what of the digital agency lacking in creative culture? Beware indeed. As much as there are traditional agencies unprepared for the kind of integration I’ve mentioned; digital agencies who aren’t recruiting serious campaign creative talent, or ensuring they’ve got an accessible creative culture, will undoubtedly experience the same issues and potential failure. One thing is for sure: we are bobbing along in a sea of change, and whenever change comes into play for businesses, there’s an argument to say we must either adapt, or die.

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