Uncovering Digital Agencies' report card

AdAge (you’ll need a subscription) published a revealing article basically stating that:

“Increasingly marketers are realizing that [offline and online] has to be integrated … but interactive agencies have not yet proven they have the capability to manage brand strategy,” said Brian Haven, senior analyst at Forrester Research and the author of “The Forrester Wave: Interactive Marketing Agencies””

This comment effectively summarised the key challenges faced by most clients and agencies. Clients are demanding integration and a single stop solution to their marketing campaigns. After agency briefing, from response to post campaign reporting, we see a split in offline and online strategy, media planning and buying. Clients are wanting digital to be incorporated into their campaigns but are agencies delivering the “right” recommendation?

With the exponential growth of online, agencies responded by “attaching” a digital arm to their existing business. A great example are the numerous interactive “divisional” names / teams with the largest being Emitch being the digital company for Mitchells. These divisions are also structured separately sitting separate from the “offline” teams and in Emitch case…”down the road”. With such disconnection with online and offline, it’s no wonder “integration” does not happen in the level it should be…. despite how many times interactive agencies evangelise to their clients about “Web 2.0”, “integration”, “user generated contents”, “engagement”, but come back with the same seperate solution to offline and a banner “push” strategy.

So, with digital agencies being so separate from the early strategy planning process, they tend to play a role as buyers only. Digital agencies also lack the ability to outside of digital…. not everyone blogs, read 10 blogs a day, twitter, and have a huge life outside of Facebook. David Armano wrote a great list of “how to become a better digital agency”:

1. Speak in Brand
Brand agencies understand it is more than a logo, design and a website. It is understanding the emotional triggers that can deliver a rich and lasting relationship with their customers. Digital agencies have a wealth of knowledge of digital trends and tools to help create/foster/maintain that relationship. Problem = Digital agencies don’t speak or understand brand… they talk about engagement but don’t have a way deliver it in creating Facebook groups, creating relationships with consumers, etc. and are to data focus to think what actually engages a consumer to their client’s brand.

2 . Think Outside the Browser and the Banner
I’ve added “and the banner” too because 90% of agencies out there are thinking just that. Digital agencies are experts in their field. They know the trends, they know what is happening, they know where their users are. However, they can be to focus on digital and can discount things like TV… “TV is dead” .. only 1.5million watch Grey’s Anatomy every week. Digital agencies need to think holistically and offer their experience on a consumer’s digital experience. A great example of marrying digital and offline is Nike+ and iPod.

3 .Evangelize Digital To Broad Audiences
Working on digital campaigns 24/7 can isolate us from clients and offline teams. We are guilty of speaking in CTR, CPA, M-Rec, UB, UA, etc only helps in making you look good but clients/offline dumb. With all the CTR and CPA, what is it really doing to my campaign and business in layman’s term. It’s about understanding your client and to understand are they digitally savvy or digitally resistant? I’m sure most agencies come across “But I don’t see banners?”

4. Corner The Market on Talent
Digital talent is short. Reward and retain your staff.

5. Make Relationship Our Business
Like all business, create that relationship and help your client build ther business not a report on how successful you’ve bought a banner and delivered it with a good CTR. Without a solid relationship, digital agencies will be seen as “execution” vs “partner”.

6. Celebrate Our Strengths
Digital is so much more than users being online. It is understanding consumer behavior in how digital has evolved them to be more open, on demand, and creating relationships in a whole new level. Internet is just a tool. Digital are in a strong position in understanding this and should strongly promote this strength…. and go have a beer too.

7. Generate Big + Little Ideas
Digital agencies must come to the table with ideas that go beyond messaging but can live outside the browser. Little functional ideas and Big emotional ideas. This can only be done by understanding consumer insights, product, business and competitors. I strongly feel Nike has been performing strongly in this field globally with great insights in understanding the jogging community to deliver Nike+ and iPod, and the football community to deliver Joga Bonito.

8. Play Well with Others
Digital agencies must work with other agencies and consultancies while being more proactive in driving their own ideas. Media agencies must play nice to Creative agencies and vice versa…. (we’ll see how this works in reality!)

9. Think, Breathe and Live Strategically
Strategic thinking is mandatory… a challenge for digital media agencies to think more than media planning & buying strategy and Digital creative agencies to be more than a flashy website with a game.

10. Get Fuzzy
A great point to finish on. The ad industry is a machine in scaling up in dollars, people, mass producing messages and selling promises. Digital agencies have experience phenomenal growth and heavily shift focus to revenue to keep stakeholders happy. But perhaps at a cost?  Innovation is happening in the marketing world which is driven by smaller groups of people who collaborate in less unstructured ways of larger agencies. What do you think social networks really are? The start ups are developing digital products and solutions which are giving the blue chips a run for their money. Digital shops need to stay fuzzy while being professional enough to move large clients forward. It’s the best of both worlds but we must be both agile and persuasive.

Let’s now see how interactive digital agencies do in the 2008 report card. A+?

copyright FRANk Media 2018