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Why Traditional Agencies Cannot Deal With Digital

“When are you opening an office in Vietnam?  Agencies do not know how to run a digital campaign, the so-called digital agencies are merely publishing our photos, articles or pictures on our website instead of doing it in magazines…”

This is shocking but really not completely surprising.  The ugly and cruel reality is that traditional agencies are unable to deal with digital.

The reason is actually quite simple.  Traditional agencies focus on delivering campaigns or what we call tactics, most of the time.  These tactic are based on the skills and competency of the agency staff.  If the agency invests in dedicated resources, the account team is required to sell those competencies to the client to increase the profitability of the agency.  For example, an agency hires mobile developers for a project but at the end of the project, will either have to sell mobile project to the clients or let the mobile team go.

In the rise of the digital world, traditional agencies are adding a digital department to their service list or setting up a dedicated digital agency branch. However, digital is still approached traditionally, as a tactic, as a channel, as a replacement of traditional marketing.

In fact, the challenge is not new, it was simply almost the best-kept secret between agencies. While traditional agencies are strong in creative, they usually fall short of meeting the “real” client objective.  Of course, agencies are answering a brief but how far does it  really address the clients’ problems?  I still struggle to understand how, for example, a single TV campaign is able to change perception or create brand awareness. While a succession of activities with TV will definitely change perception and create brand awareness, a single shot will just not do.

As such, over time, people have grown accustomed to creating lots of tactics, producing nice and beautiful campaigns for the pleasure of being creative without really looking at the core of the issue and analyzing if they have a real impact on sales, brand, market share, perceptions….. you name it.

Digital goes across channels and requires people who understand the impact of those channels to the brand and consumers.
Digital has an impact on how we engage consumers, online and offline.  It requires cross media skill sets and knowledge of integrated marketing, touch points mapping, contact strategy and CTA.
Digital has an impact on data we capture, what we measure and how we run our campaigns.  It requires knowledge of metrics, of what is the right objectives to define, KPIs to set, targets to achieve, and how to track, measure and analyze the results to deliver clear business insights.
Digital has a big impact on brands and strategy.  It requires sales, business and cross-functional knowledge on how to best translate the brand vision into a long term direction.

Reducing digital to a tactic or a channel is dangerously underestimating the power and potential of digital for a brand.  This is why traditional agencies are not yet able to deal with digital.