Tag Archives: agency

Transcending the Traditional vs. Digital Divide

There’s a growing division in the advertising world: a yawning chasm between traditional and digital approaches. Old-school marketers, direct mailers and brochures in hand, stand on one side, and tech-savvy SEO gurus, web developers, and AdWords adepts on the other.

Yes, sometimes the two sides work together, though typically in a patchwork-style campaign. Predictably, the results usually fall flat.

This schism between analog and online isn’t just wrong-headed—it entirely overlooks the enormous power unleashed when both sides work seamlessly in a cohesive strategy. Both types of media become exponentially more effective when working as one.

Moving Beyond with a Media-Agnostic Approach

Too many agencies, advertisers, and businesses side with a camp from the onset, before even considering the specifics of the campaign at hand. Would a mechanic trash half his toolbox before discovering why the car isn’t starting? Would a general dismiss half his troops before determining the mission? You get the idea.

Before restricting ourselves to certain media channels, we work closely with clients to intimately understand the goals, challenges, and needs of the campaign. Only then do we proceed with a media-agnostic approach to implementing it. We go with whatever delivery methods work best—and that usually involves a combination of tradition and digital tools.

Digital platforms are indeed where more businesses are moving, and for good reason. It’s increasingly easy for customers to learn more, take action, or make a purchase online. But that doesn’t mean traditional tools are obsolete.

Some of the most successful efforts leverage the considerable power of traditional media—a physical brochure, a captivating sign, a direct mailing—to capture attention and send customers to a digital destination—a landing page, a mobile app, an ecommerce store—where they can heed the call to action.

Great campaigns make use of all tools at their disposal, merging digital and traditional media in a sharp, channel-agnostic strategy. The dichotomy between digital and traditional media is a false one: transcend it to make your message more effective. To paraphrase Aristotle, the whole is far, far greater than the sum of the parts.

Author: Zack Smith


Co-Creation Utopia Debunked

In his recent Adweek article, “Co-creation Is Key to a Successful Agency-Client Relationship,” Matt Eastwood, chief creative officer of DDB New York, argues that partnering more intimately––or “co-creating”––with clients is a more effective way of working than the traditional model. By bringing clients into the idea-generating process, we allow them to feel a sense of ownership and confidence in the campaign idea. Furthermore, he argues, our clients know their brands better than anyone else, and this can be incredibly useful to the creative team.

The roots of the divided agency/client relationship are often attributed to its genesis. In a bid/spec situation, an agency is typically asked up front, “What can you do for our brand?” Starting with “You’re the agency, now wow me” sets precedent for future behavior and communications.

I find it hard to reconcile this beginning with Eastwood’s concept of co-creation. Clients often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new campaigns, so I wonder how seamless the transition from hired contractor to co-collaborator is. How does the agency go from, “We’re brilliant and different” to “We’re brilliant, sure, but if you have any ideas for a new campaign we’d love to hear them”?

A savvy client is usually quick to become part of the team, and that’s great, but ad agencies define themselves by their ability to generate unique ideas—it’s how they build their reputations. How do agencies justify their cost or leverage their value simply by being good teammates?

I love the thought of new clients understanding the process of coming up with concepts. (Justifying four weeks of idea-generation is always hard to explain to a client who doesn’t fully understand the process.) Do we really want our clients to see behind Oz’s curtain, though? We all know that a great idea can come anytime, anywhere. So how will this affect our own process? Will it add unnecessary structure to it?

To paraphrase Eastwood, having the client be a part of the process of idea-generating allows the team to get a truer sense of the brand and its audience. While I agree that no one knows the brand better than the brand itself, I can’t imagine a world where we’d want the client in the room while we are coming up with creative concepts. History has taught us to never ignore a “bad” idea. We allow creatives to throw as many ideas on the wall as possible and not veto them right off the bat because of brand standards. Finding the big idea is most important at this stage––the filtering can happen later.

As an account person, I find the notion of giving the client more ownership of the idea––and thus ensuring that responsibility for its success or failure is equally shared––comforting. But as a creative purist and realist, I think this co-creation process brings with it too many new challenges to be feasible.

Author: Eric Swenson

Competition in Design: Wise or Waste?

There are many professions that promote competition. Design, in particular, lends itself to one-upping that coworker, the competition, and sometimes the jurors of an awards competition. Unlike art, design in advertising can sometimes be measured by the return on investment. Well-designed campaigns can be judged by sales figures.

Of course, it’s not always so black and white. There are herds of beautiful designs that get produced but never make the front page. There are strong strategic ideas that work perfectly for the client but—for one reason or another—don’t effectively catch fire. Blame the medium or blame media—ideas sometimes just don’t get fertilized. Conceiving an idea, it seems, takes just the right formula.

But there’s an even bigger hurdle to hurdle. Ask designers or copywriters at any agency in the world what their best ideas were, and they’ll give you their answers. Ask them if their best ideas were ever published, and I’m certain you’ll receive a resounding “No” in response.

In our industry, the best ideas don’t always win over our audience: the client. And that’s fine. The ideas that make it to the coveted awards competitions have to be ideas that have been produced. That means that the breadth of work we see is far narrower than what’s been attempted.

So is all this competition worth it? Is it worthwhile for companies to put in the added effort, costs, and resources to submit their ideas? Is it worth the long hours, the nail biting, and the limited publicity for the results?


Andrew Carnegie once said, “And while the law [of competition] may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department.”

Love or loathe competition, it’s what drives us forward as artists (dare I say humanity?). Whether it’s friendly competition among colleagues or a battle against yourself, our need to move forward with bigger and better ideas is what helps us evolve—producing work that’s relevant and effective.

An informal survey of six nearby designers about competition showed a fun split between men and women. The women designers seemed to feel that collaboration is always the key to producing better work. The men felt that working in isolation and then exchanging ideas later was better. Both groups agreed that a spirited awards competition against other agencies would be a great way to unify ideas and kick some competitor ass.

What it would really do, however, is give designers more of a stake in our projects. Competition promotes creativity of the purest and highest order. It pushes our spirit further. It makes our ideas soar higher. Art is the essence of our humanity.

If that’s a little too grandiose for you, be sure to check out my last post on annual reports. I guess what I’m saying is, forget return on investment for a second and think about what we’re doing here.

What do you think? Competition in design—wise or waste?

Author: Eric Swenson

Save Your Client-Agency Relationship

Changes in technology have been good for the most part, for our personal lives as well as for businesses. All the tweeting, texting, Skyping, and emailing has affected our productivity in ways that are more positive than negative. But hiding behind a gadget is not always the best idea. How do you a build meaningful relationship online?! A client will most often hire an agency not only for its good work and reputation but also for its likability––built through a relationship.

Lucrative business relationships are built on reliance, self-confidence, supportiveness, and success on both ends. These relationships require ongoing effort and are very important for future growth. They are complex and necessitate cooperation to be effective. The client and the agency both need to be present and active in building a relationship, monitoring the level of trust, belief, and consideration. If you fail to connect with the client, this is an issue. Continuous and open communication can build a true client-agency relationship that technology––no matter how advanced––just can’t provide.

So go out there and follow these tips from agency consultant Judy Neer:
•    In-person creative briefings/kickoff meetings
•    Creative concept “check-ins”
•    Picking up the phone … to speak, not text

For a more detailed explanation, read this AdAge article by Judy Neer!

Author: Marina Kaljaj

The Ad World Is Coming Back with a Vengeance – Digital Marketing Leads the Way

Things are looking up for advertising and marketing agencies worldwide. Check out this optimistic article by Bradley Johnson from Ad Age:

The agency business has come back to life, with U.S. revenue jumping 7.7% as the domestic market led a 2010 worldwide rebound in advertising and marketing services.

The standout performer: digital marketing, which accounted for 28% of U.S. agency revenue.

Plot line of this recovery: The recession officially ended in June 2009, U.S. measured-media spending turned northward in first-quarter 2010 (according to WPP’s Kantar Media), and U.S. advertising and marketing-services firms have added 23,100 jobs since ad industry employment hit bottom in February 2010 (according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data).

The Big Four agency holding companies—WPP, Omnicom Group, Publicis Groupe, Interpublic Group of Cos.—in 2010 added 11,000 jobs (including acquisitions) after slashing 22,000 jobs in 2009.

Shares in WPP, Omnicom and Interpublic in first-quarter 2011 reached their highest levels since pre-recession 2007, a sign of investors’ optimism about the sector. Publicis shares this year reached their highest point since 2000.

U.S. 2010 revenue for marketing-communications agencies—including advertising, marketing services, media, health care and public relations—rose 7.7% to $30.4 billion, according to the Ad Age Agency Report, which tracked the performance of more than 900 U.S. agencies. (Ad Age DataCenter adjusted agency revenue figures for acquisitions to show revenue growth on an apples-to-apples basis.)

Every major agency discipline rebounded last year, with U.S. revenue growth in the range of 6% to 7% for most disciplines (including advertising, promotion, health care and public relations). Revenue for digital-specialty agencies (essentially digital pure-play agencies) surged 16.3%.

The U.S. was the world’s star performer in 2010 for advertising and marketing services, exceeding expectations and outpacing growth in most other regions.

To be sure, some of the U.S. advertising market’s recovery reflected what WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell has called a “dead cat bounce”: The ad business fell so sharply that it wasn’t surprising to see decent percentage gains when the economy began to recover after the longest recession (December 2007 through June 2009) since the Great Depression.

To read more of this article, click here.

Author: Eric Swenson