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What We Talk About When We Talk About Ad Agencies
What is a digital agency? It’s a serious question: what REALLY is a digital agency?
Published in MediaPost’s OMMA Magazine Fall 2012 issue, John Capone’s article highlights a very real phenomenon in the evolution of the digital marketing discipline. What we see today is fierce competition between PR companies, marketers, digital agencies, ad tech enterprises and even consultants clamoring for the pole position in the rapidly evolving digital space.
The holy grail? To own both client messaging AND content delivery. Each seeks to claim the title as the ultimate creator and curator of the connection between brands and consumers, regardless of channel, device or medium. We’ve moved away from a bygone era of broadcast TV and print advertising, and have embraced the wild west of digital formats that create engagement, interactivity and social influence. But the question remains – what IS a digital agency?
“Many say that the industry has become less about delivering promotional elements and more about providing solutions.”
The challenge for digital agencies is that ‘providing solutions’ conjures up a broad, amorphous expectation that blurs the traditional lines of ownership. With an impetus on crafting an immersive, community-focused experience for the audience, it’s often an open question as to who is in the best position to deliver such a solution. And today it may default to whichever enterprise within the PR, marketing and agency world has access to the most innovative coders rather than strategists, planners and creative talent. And if it’s not solely the job of the digital agency to come up with digital marketing solutions, what does ‘digital agency’ really mean?
“Just because you can pound a nail into wood does not make you a carpenter.”
I also agree that simply calling a business a ‘digital agency’ does not provide a descriptor, at least with any degree of confidence, of that agency’s understanding of client needs – however promotional, brand or campaign-related it may be - and the technical depth of the services they should offer. At the same time, claiming to provide digital services usually means more about coding skills than the agency’s ability to predictably and reliably grow businesses or move markets in the name of its clients. Today the landscape is blanketed with agencies with a wide range of differentiators…but each falling squarely within the realm of the ‘digital agency’.
Now, as a category we each are tasked with the same challenge - to provide effective marketing solutions in the digital space. In our world, the emphasis remains on the “big idea” that ultimately drives the client’s advertising success, but we elect also to deliver deeply insightful solutions from concept to campaign - driving traffic, holding the attention of the audience, and providing a rich user experience. We see the marriage of consumer strategy, brand planning, media planning, social media, creative and analytics resulting in the wonderful entity known as a digital agency. At least that’s how we see ourselves.
Questions or comments? Love to hear ‘em.
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Excellent execution by Grey (Beijing, China).
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What a clever and eye catching design by Publicis (Sao Paulo, Brazil).