Agency Reality Check

Posted: July 1, 2010 in Agencies, Standards, Trends
Tags: , ,

Agencies behold! Today I ask you to look in the mirror and ask yourself one simple question.

“Are you proud and confident of your digital services, or are you faking the funk?”

If you are truly proud of your digital capabilities, feel free to stop reading now…

Over the last three years I have trained and consulted  dozens of agencies of all sizes, from the small local shop to the largest media agencies in the world. What has become clear is how easy it is to get caught up in “bright shiny object syndrome” – focusing on the latest and greatest new media platforms or trends that hits the trades. We all do it from time to time, and don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of opportunities in emerging media. However, it is important to understand that it is not the sexy emerging channels and new technology that create the base of most digital marketing programs, but rather the tried and true digital staples that have shaped the digital ecosystem up until this point in time. Funny how easy it is to forget that simple fact.

The Future (Present) Is Bright

There is no contesting the fact that there is more evolution occurring before our eyes than ever before. But there are hundreds of agencies who are still working on catching up to the curve.  These agencies should be cognizant of how easy it is to lose sight of the fundamentals in the quest to skip to the head of the line,  which does not compensate for a lack of general digital capabilities. Offering clients a social media program or talking about locations based services (LBS), or making a website optimized for the iPad might prove that you know what the newest trends are – you might even get several small projects out of it – but it will not help you drive your clients’ businesses forward in an impactful and holistic way, nor will it help secure a longer term digital relationship with your clients.

Back to Basics

Mastering the ability to plan, execute and manage “traditional” digital media and marketing programs based on clearly defined objectives is a prerequisite to venturing into the emerging media world. Granted, today social and mobile programs are leaving emerging status and becoming a standard part of the mix, but without a proficiency rooted in best practices surrounding reaching, engaging and influencing consumers, optimizing search engine discoverability, and measuring and optimizing these activities, any efforts into the emerging media world will inevitably be shallow and incomplete. Emerging media is not a replacement of traditional media, but a compliment. This is as true for TV as it is for the internet and all of its evolving sub-channels (we’ll leave newspapers out of this conversation for now). Most digital and integrated agencies make their bread and butter from “traditional digital services” – digital strategy, media planning, buying & management, search engine marketing (SEM) & search engine optimization (SEO), web development and creative, and analytics. Only then can you truly maximize the impact of emerging platforms on consumer engagement as well as agency profitability.

Making It Work

Successful agencies have established specific processes to combat the labor intensity and lower margins associated with certain aspects of providing digital services. With proficiency across the board, agencies can determine where the margins exist and how to focus on making money in a cut throat and fast paced competitive ecosystem. As clients’ digital spending increases, the ability to generate significant revenues and profit will increase accordingly. Many technologies exist to help automate and centralize specific tasks, such as ad servers for centralized ad delivery, measurement, and reporting; bid management systems for bidding and optimizing search marketing programs; social media monitoring tools for aggregating buzz, sentiment and trends within the social sphere; DSP’s and data exchanges for second channel audience buying; dynamic creative optimizers for multivariate testing of creative attributes, just to name a handful. But keep in mind that technology is merely a tool to automate mundane and inefficient tasks and facilitate human-based insight generation. Technology requires management. There is no plug and play solution – no silver bullet to replace talent and knowledge.

Challenge yourself and your team regularly. Times have changed. There is a lot to learn, and it may be the time to pay your dues all over again. Embrace pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. It’s all worth it. As the saying goes, knowledge is power.

A lack of knowledge is not a problem. However, not developing a plan to develop the knowledge, and focusing on bright shiny objects can be your downfall.

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