Agency of the Future: Going Digital

05Dec08

At E3 Network’s Annual Conference in Toronto, Andrew Bailey of Proximity Canada talked about how traditional advertising agencies need to shift gears and think about where the future is headed. The writing is on the wall, and it’s a digital file downloaded from a social networking site to be viewed on a mobile phone!

Social Media Specialists

Cartoon by Hugh MacLeod, Gaping Void, used by permission

The shift to digital media has weighty implications for advertising agencies, especially those in international B2B marketing where it may seem easy to rely on print publications and trade shows to reach out to highly specialized audiences. How can international agencies adapt to the growing globalization that the digital trend brings?

For those in traditional creative shops, it may mean rethinking your offerings and expanding into the digital realm. Some of you might restructure or spin off digital branches. But one thing seems to be unanimous to trend-watchers …the future growth of marketing is in interactive.

Cartoon by Hugh Macleod, Gaping Void

Cartoon by Hugh Macleod, Gaping Void

Some advice from Bailey included:
1. Decide what business you’re in. Focus on your core markets and target audiences.
2. Invest in the right leadership. Either hire it from outside or train it from within.
3. Test and learn. You need to be willing to make mistakes in order to learn. You won’t create the next big thing without some risk.

Which agency model?
Some agencies might think that partnering with a digital agency is enough to let them claim a digital presence. While it might be a good short-term strategy, it’s not going to keep the ship afloat in cyberspace.

At New York’s Ad Tech conference in November, Nancy Hill, president and CEO of the American Association of Advertising agencies warned against the separate agency approach. In a panel discussion on the Future of the Ad Agency, she outlined three models for how clients might hire agencies. In the first model, the client selects a lead agency to handle all marketing efforts. In the second, the client assumes the leadership role. In the third, the client hires a number of different agencies and expects them to collaborate.

“Two of the models work, and one of them absolutely does not,” Hill said. The third model, she said, is destined to fail — and yet it’s the model being used most often.” And that’s where the fighting comes in because there is no clear mission,” Hill said, noting that it’s imperative from a marketer’s perspective to have one throat to choke at the end of the day. – From iMedia Connection’s panel discussion recap: The identity crisis of today’s ad agencies.

What’s your take?

Do you think the future of advertising agencies lies in digital? Have you started planning for the future? Tell us where you stand.

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