Reporting from the digital front line


I still maintain that very few people in advertising agencies really understand what clever digital agencies can do for their clients.

And I had this further drummed into me last week as one of the judges of the NMA and Marketing Week’s Interactive Marketing and Advertising Awards.

So I thought I’d jot down some observations on the work from the perspective of a planner from an above the line tradition trying to understand what is going on.

Here are five bite sized observations:
1) The technological prowess on display is astonishing. Not only that, but the tenacity and resourcefulness of the agencies in delivering formerly impossible solutions is awe inspiring. To my mind this is where above the line understanding of the digital discipline is poorest.
2) Production values are getting scarily good and the case is increasingly being made for a greater share of the production pie – i.e. some proper budgets. Not because more people are experiencing the work (which of course is true) but because better production values are delivering better results.
3) The planning on display is often about an acute understanding of the interface between consumer and media (comms planning) which is extremely cool. However it is rarely about an acute understanding of the brand and it’s role in people’s lives which is less cool. Great communications have to be about the brand’s promise as well as it’s delivery of sponsored applications.
4) The metrics are impressive – tangible and rich. But they tend to dwell in the world of the terminally intermediate – click through, pass on rates, cost per click, dwell time and the like. One often ends up craving a sales effect or even a simple change in attitudes towards the brand.
5) While the digital elite in the UK is a relatively established group of agencies there are some frightening good small agencies breaking through on both the creative and media side. Maybe this is the category we should be looking to for a renaissance in UK creativity not the ATL start ups.
Anymore than that would be giving the game away.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

7 Replies to “Reporting from the digital front line”

  1. Richard – re: “some frightening good small agencies breaking through on both the creative and media side” – care to name some names?

  2. Re. …’technology prowess…combined with comms planning’. I think this is a true/telling observation of where many of the digital pure plays of the recent years find themselves. Accumulated domain/tech expertise, but a bit thin on brand strategy and access to the highest level client within a brand.
    Flipside is the ATL agencies with historically, great client relationships through brand-driven strategy, but real difficulty in turning it into top-flight digital execution.
    So. We’re all running to the same place. I wonder who will fill the missing bits fastest?

  3. As a digital bod, great to hear these props!
    Definitely agree with a couple of the points about areas where there’s room for improvement (“acute understanding of the brand v. acute understanding of interface between consumer and media”).
    And on the fact that metrics at times dwell in the world of the “terminally intermediate”. The problem here is that it’s straight-forward to track sales online from online advertising. But not offline sales from online advertising, and is difficult to work out the role of offline advertising in online sales. And in terms of, other metrics, sadly I’m not convinced that the companies offering, eg, awareness tracking from online advertising have sufficiently robust methodologies as yet…

  4. Is anyone else getting bored of this ‘advertising agencies don’t get Digital’? Of course moast of them don’t. But hardly anyone does and that’s what you’d expect of such a fast-moving market…
    Perhaps its just all the old Hacks (most of whom have moved out of Agency-ville long ago) harping on, whilst the rest of us are actually in the trenches, fighting every day to bring the rigours of good strategic thinking to bear in the digital world.
    What would be interesting is the odd post on how to actually persuade the different cultures in individual disciplines to work together. Or maybe how to take a good idea (that appears to have some legs in the offline world) and make it work in an interesting way online – and vice versa.
    I feel like this constant refrain is masochistic and a self-fulfilling prophecy PLUS it doesn’t do any favours for those of us trying to change things.
    God I feel better now…

  5. Winner of NMA’s most efficient digital agency… Web Liquid, we’re small, but cutting edge and on the ball…and always keen to engage in progressive thinking. Our agency is constantly evolving and it is natural to ask questions every day of an industry that is evolving at a startling rate and has no rule book.
    If large agenices want to build this expertise they need to buy-in the talent or consult the daddies… that’ll be us.

Comments are closed.