AN Opinion on Digital Agencies Taking the Reins

Are digital agencies ready to lead?

By now, you’ve probably read Jacques Hueve-Roubert’s well written rebuttal of last week’s hot topic POV entitled “Why Digital Agencies Aren’t Ready To Lead”, written by digital marketing professional Ana Andjelic.  Many of the commentators of Ms. Andjelic’s post correctly noted that even beyond her overambitious title and blanket assumptions, the piece offered several scathing criticisms that seem to be either wholly subjective (at best) or basically arbitrary (at worst).  As this is a key issue facing our industry, I wanted to also state my position on the matter.

For starters, I am not of the mindset that traditional agencies “don’t get it,” or that they blindly support “obsolete ways of doing marketing.”  Traditional agencies are monoliths built upon years and years of consumer insight and understanding.  They were designed to effectively promote products through the tools and channels that had the most reach, since that was the quickest road to brand awareness, perception, etc. The issue is that, as the media landscape shifts, traditional shops maintain a “business as usual” structure and attitude, creating plans and ideas that are meant to be adopted/translated into the digital ecosystem, but are not truly engineered for it.

You wouldn’t refer to a traditional agency as a brand’s “television”, “print” or “radio” shop, so it’s a disservice to think of a digital agency as a stand-alone production shop, only capable of working within a limited, non-strategic context.

Guiding a brand through the evolving (and increasingly digital) landscape is a sophisticated and delicate undertaking. So, while digital agencies bring a new mindset and approach to the table, the underlying principles of brand strategy remain, and are certainly not the exclusive domain of traditional agencies. Digital agencies are stepping up to the plate, and we’ve seen several great examples of this already.

At AgencyNet, we love the opportunity to take charge and lead the idea process.  Contrary to Ms. Andjelic’s assertions, we’ve been doing it for over 10 years.  We firmly believe that ideas created for the digital space need to be rooted in interaction and consumer value.  Many times, ideas generated in traditional shops do not lend themselves to either and are at a tremendous disadvantage in the digital space.

The good news is that brands have begun to recognize this and chart their courses in a more savvy manner: Pepsi’s SoBe has tapped our friends at Firstborn as their agency of record, and earlier this week, Wrigley’s announced that it was handing over its creative duties to more of our close buddies at Big Spaceship, Firstborn, and EVB. Of course, the measure of success will ultimately be in the work, but for the time being if this doesn’t support the case for leadership, I don’t know what does.

Image Credit: Bobby Martin