Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why doesn't my Agency Get the digital space?

Little different than online retail but I think related none the less.

My last stint was at a "traditional agency." They did an excellent job at DM, B2B and essential print marketing. But... their idea of a truly integrated digital, video, and DM campaign failed miserably. The concept was presented to one group and supposedly approved. The development of the digital component was never "headed" so much as it was batted about like a shuttlecock in a world championship Badminton match. The people who were supposed to "lead" the project... hadn't built a website in their lives... let alone an integrated campaign. The digital portion of the project was a PORTAL, which never had a single requirements document written for it. From the description, you would figure that this agency was a 20-person shop, with smaller clients. It wasn't. It is in fact a "network agency" with one of the biggest agency groups out there. The client was... um... really big.

The results... the root concept presented by the creative team, was axed by the client... only after 6 figures had been spent on a "digital experience" to match that "vision." The campaign and site however rolled out with that root concept in tact because... well... it was too late to change it. The results were... um... underwhelming. The level of integration was... well... not integrated. I left the agency shortly after the project rolled out, but this agency and network group have since participated in another high profile... hiccup... in the digital space.

So... why the dysfunction? Well... I read this MediaPost article today... and I think that the warnings to "traditional agencies" part of it pretty much summed up the experience. The article talks about the silos that exist in agencies... and the barriers these become to the truly integrated campaign. It also says that it is imperative that the "traditional agencies" figure this out now... or risk not surviving, because today's consumer... younger for sure but even boomers at this point... EXPECT INTEGRATION. They expected in the message, in their customer experience... they believe one brand, one vision. Most agencies are not setup to handle this.

The agency I was with, had creative groups lined up around verticals... and clients. DM group didn't consort with the TV, etc. They "worked together" on projects but... did not have an integrated approach... and for the most part while well intentioned... the creative group had little or no large scale experience with digital experiences. Meanwhile, the Account Service layer had been very used to controlling all aspects of the project; planning, production, execution. Very much like running a DM project. They had NO experience with running a project the level of variables involved in a digital project, but had all the authority and responsibility for it. Then you had the technical group, which was very talented, but also did not have the analysis layer to produce and effective large scale digital experience. And finally... getting this large, disjointed team on the same page... on ANYTHING... was nearly impossible.

So... what's the lesson... the solution here? The lesson could be best learned by looking the mistakes of their clients... especially when it comes to how THEY'VE mishandled integrated experiences. For example; no longer does retail operations work in a vacuum with regards to what the marketing team is doing for a campaign, or the digital team is doing on their "biggest store" the website. These teams are together... working as one on singularly focused campaigns and improving the customer experience. I think the reason you're seeing the upper tier digital agencies start to become the 'agency of record' in more situations... is that the RG/A's of the world GET the integration needed organizationally to achieve integrated marketing. It has been my experience that the "network approach" or even the siloed-mid-agency approach has some challenges focusing like this.

My advice to agencies that aren't yet integrated... is you can't do an effective integrated campaign until you yourself are integrated. If you don't change now... the clients are going to pass you by.

Love to hear your comments... either via meebome or below.

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