Digital is so 2005

At a glance
  • The term ‘digital agency’ is now obsolete
  • It’s time we all started talking personalised connections, rather than broadly talking digital marketing
  • The hype of digital agencies is now over a decade old, so it’s time to reconsider the expired agency structure
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*Image is from YouTube's launch in November 2005.

Farewell to the digital agency

The term ‘digital’ in marketing is now outmoded and the notion of ‘The Digital Agency’ is a non sequitur. Given 81% of Australians have smartphones on them every waking hour, using laptops, desktops, and tablets simultaneously – it seems a little old fashioned to distinguish digi as a specialty or even as a separate discipline.

If it’s ubiquitous in the landscape of our behaviour (and has been for some time), the fact that ad agencies continue to insist on using digital to differentiate their services is a little embarrassing. Of course your agency does digital. If it doesn’t, umm, well things are going to get a little awkward aren’t they? Instead, isn’t it a matter of how well you do digital, or more importantly, why you do digital? Maybe it’s time for agencies to be more honest with their own advertising.

The industry pecking order

Let me explain. There’s a spectrum of agencies. At one end lurk the bigger, established organisations that have done very well for themselves over the decades plying their Mad Men-age wares. These guys are traditional in their approach – their thinking and largely, their output. Other than the odd award-focused pet project, the bulk of their product is TVC, print, radio, OOH, and a smattering of ‘digi’. But to be fair, most of these guys understand the notion of brands and why it’s important to start there. But even though they are all shouting ‘integrated’, it’s just really hard for them to keep up with the times in their current form.

On the other end sits the ‘we are digital’ agencies. A lot of these guys are doing some seriously cool digital and tech innovation. But much of the time they do it because they can, not because they should, or because a brand needs it. Whilst shiny and new is appealing to many clients (“give me something out of the box!”), it’s largely conceived in a vacuum, and doesn’t have the big picture brand business thinking required to drive sales and genuine ROI. Brand strategy is way down the learning curve for these guys as many of them were born from a production model of building websites.

It’s somewhere in the middle that you’ll always get your best result. This is where a brand’s goals are front and centre throughout development of the strategic and creative process. Whether it be bleeding edge digital, traditional channels (or both), they’re simply a means to an end. Having a Head of Digital or Technical Director on staff doesn’t do more than tick a box either. To have an agency positioned to provide what brands need now means that each and every person involved in coming up with solutions are digital literate at worst and digital passionate at best. Each part of the process creating brand or business solutions should be empowered to innovate and consider a spectrum of solutions – digital or analog.

What is digital anyway?

Many of us recognise digital as the idea of data or information. For example, the sound which is translated into a code of binary digits, ‘1’ & ‘0’, i.e. on or off, which is then converted into electrical signals and then finally reconverted back into sound at the other end of a mobile phone. It’s a way of getting info from one place to another, and is the base of every digitalised technology. Sadly in adland, things aren’t quite as high falutin’. To many ‘integrated’ agencies, digital means banners or websites and not much more. In 2015, this is unforgiveable. It’s no wonder that clients are scrambling to bring ‘digital’ skills in house with this kind of frog in a well mentality.

To us, digital is an exciting, constantly evolving channel. Digital provides constant sources of information, to deliver a message or an experience, from one place to another. It allows us to be more accurate with these forms of communication, using new and innovative forms of technology to engage the right audience with a tailored and personalised brand strategy. And while this may be daunting for most, we find this dynamic aspect the most exhilarating. This is because the possibilities for finding business solutions and communication challenges are virtually endless.

Let’s get personal

We now have the capacity to communicate with individuals based on what they’re doing, where they are at any point in time, and what decisions they make through any part of their journey. So isn’t it time we all started talking personalised connections, rather than broadly talking digital marketing? Shouldn’t the word ‘digital’ be relegated to a hygiene offering along with print, radio, and ambient?

It’s a truly fantastic time to be in the business of influencing people’s behaviour. Technology has never been so accessible and adaptable. And remember it’s not just our agenda. Consumers expect brands to be digital, tech savvy, and adding value to their buying experience. So how is your ‘digital agency’ faring? And instead, why aren’t they a brand agency that uses digital to help get the most from a myriad of opportunities? Have a good think, because the hype of digital agencies is now over a decade old. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the expired agency structure.

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