When it comes to digital, agencies often get in their own way.

March 20, 2009

Digital. Easier than it looks?

The following in an excerpt from a piece I wrote for Campaign Magazine last week. The juiciest piece, it also fits into a wider discussion we’ve been having here about integration…

The biggest obstacle towards achieving creativity with digital can be found in our very own creative departments. For various reasons, we tend to build the digital creative group separate from the traditional.

This is a grievous error. In order for creativity to thrive (not just survive), another marriage is required: that of general and digital. I see a creative department made up of copywriters, web designers, art directors, flash artists and so on. Pair them up. Let them mate and have babies! These hybrid teams are the future. They can truly create worthy content that also functions precisely as portals.

Agencies hold on to old ideas. Unless we are forced (by conditions, clients or competition), we are likely to construct inefficient silos within our creative department, if not the agency as a whole. Separating digital creatives from traditional creatives (not to mention direct marketing from general) causes fiefdoms and redundancies. Working in multiple channels serves agency and practitioner alike, as well as the client.

We perceive digital creative to be more complicated than it really is. A screen is a screen, after all. Words are spelled the same.


10 Responses to “When it comes to digital, agencies often get in their own way.”

  1. Amen brother. Fundamentally, advertising hasn’t changed in a thousand years. Whether it’s on a cave wall, a billboard or a blog post, this business is still about finding the story and telling it well.

  2. I’d even go one step further. Digital is expected to outgrow other ad media. So, the question is: “How do you compete in the most rapidly growing segment?” While overall competition may still be with the TWBA’s, DDB’s, W+K’s, etc., how you line up against the Tribal DDB’s, Barbarian Group’s, even the Wexley’s may have longer-term significance.

    Uninhibited by mass advertising paradigms, this latter group is redefining promotion. While the obvious answer is to compete based on “cutting edge” digital, Euro’s strength lies in cutting edge integrative advertising. Put the TV, print, in-store, digital, social together in a way that’s additive (even self-reinforcing) and impossible for digital-only shops to copy.

    I don’t think that gets done in silos.

  3. Mark Kelly said

    Yes, good integrated campaigns come from good integrated agencies. One question though, why did the Award shows separate interactive from general?
    Who were the ad geniuses who decided that it was better to set these two disciplines apart?
    Hindsight is 20/20 I guess, but agencies were talking 360 more than a decade ago, and yet the award shows continued to see these as separate entities.

    Mark Kelly
    JWT Creative Director

  4. Putting it all together is appropriate. There is no point in organizing around new media, old media, digital, or radio. What matters to a brand is the right media.

  5. Van Gould said

    If everyone is mixed up, will mediocre work be created more often? I have spoken to several creative directors who are now having traditionals do interactive and vice versus. It sounds like an awesome idea, but isn’t it specialization that helps digital agencies thrive?

  6. Craig Elimeliah said

    I could not disagree more! A screen is not a screen, and yes digital is more complex. The organization of data, the presentation of the pitch, the big idea the interactivity and the entire user experience is different! You cannot even compare the design process between offline and online. The internet gives the designer so many more options, variables and ways to tell a story, to say that the two are the same is ignorant an naive. Agencies still dont get that the approach towards digital is very different than any other channel and that it requires a technical, information, content and design strategist who can spin all of those factors together.

    • General agencies are perceived as not being able to create sophisticated digital work. Why do you think the big digital agencies exist. Integration as a whole is a tough obstacle. If a general agency has a digital group I can assure you they are NOT integrated and still operate in silos since once creative group thinks they know better than the other. One answer maybe to brand the digital group so it can function independently if needed. Again, going after Interactive AOR work and being seen as a true digital expert. Not just another channel that can be checked off in the agencies capabilities slide.

  7. SRP said

    You are not wrong, just misguided.
    The bigger harm is creating silos, which create caste systems and countless other bullshit in an agency. Trust me, I’ve seen it. Specialists are of course needed but they should work in lockstep with general creatives rather than independent from them.

    • I was not intending to say that silos need to be created but what I am saying is that many agencies take on work that they are not equipped both technically and strategically to do and are misguiding their clients. Digital is an approach, its a technical and design convergence that requires the understanding of what it takes to get done. Smaller digital agencies should work with the larger traditional agencies in tandem to bring an idea to life but when it comes to specific channels like digital then it should not be the party who has no understanding of that medium leading the charge.

  8. What you suggest is exactly the way I’ve been working since I started in the business way back in 2003.

    There are benefits to working at small agencies, and one of the major ones is that you get to work on everything, with everyone.

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