Going back a few weeks, I wrote about “who owns social media?” The answer to that particular piece being that social media cannot operate in isolation and to be successful, multiple different skills need to be blended together. To add some more fuel to the fire and to broaden this a little, we’ve been discussing internally the merits of a specialist digital media agency versus a full service one.
Paid Search became the domain of the specialist agency when a flourish of agencies were set up focusing all of their resources on that particular field, developing expertise as a genuine point of difference while increases in technology took away some of the man-hours to increase efficiency. Media Planning & Buying has existed in its own right in the traditional sense and that has followed in digital with large agencies dominating on the pretence that they can achieve greater buying economies of scale with an increase level of spend.
The disadvantage with specialist agencies comes from the nature of a ‘specialist’ – someone who is devoted to a particular occupation. They can be very single-minded due to the expertise and experience that they have in that particular field, however this can lead to them having a narrow and restricted view on advertising and indeed marketing in general. To that end specialist agencies are beginning to broaden their services, such as The Search Works merging with TradeDoubler to offer a more holistic approach. It’s also been said a million times before that people consume media differently now than they have in the past therefore surely their behavior requires an approach from the people who connect brands with consumers which mirrors this?
Naturally I’m inclined to believe that a full-service environment, with all disciplines together under the same roof with central co-ordination of these disciplines, is the way forward. This way, full-service agencies can provide independent, agnostic advice on aspects such as the budget allocation between the different disciplines, or advise on the impact that Display actually had on persuading one of their customers to convert online through a different channel.
Moving away from media in isolation, we’re seeing digital creative agencies such as AKQA launching their own media divisions to combat the need for digital expertise in all areas under one roof, i.e. Media and Creative. As the IPA’s newly inaugurated president, Rory Sutherland recently addressed the challenge of having media planners who do not have experience in dealing with creatives, highlighting the need for a more rounded approach:
“It terrifies me that almost nobody under the age of 35 in a media agency has any experience of working with creative people and vice versa; hence fewer and fewer people understand … the whole equation of business”
Coming from LBi it would be easy to accuse me of blowing my own trumpet but that would be missing the point. Ultimately co-operation is what is important – we are all better if we are working together. If a business is able to get a group of specialist agencies working together towards a common goal then that is fantastic, but in practice this rarely happens and it is most achievable within a full service environment, with each party fighting for their share of the budget.