Wake Up Agencies – Digital Shops = Trojan Horse

It was bound to happen, and now it has. A big-time digital agency (R/GA) has opened up a full-fledged brand development arm.

And whom do you think they will be competing against with this new branding department? Other digital agencies? Nope. They are aiming for traditional agencies and the branding, media placement, and creative budgets they enjoy. The division is headed up by an ex Wieden & Kennedy executive.

To quote from AdAge:

Branding is a logical progression for R/GA, an agency that focuses on digital design for clients — for example, its Nike Plus work. It’s also another example of R/GA’s aggressive expansion into other marketing disciplines; the shop was originally known for its web work but has added TV production and media planning in the past few years. 

Digital marketing is going to grow. That’s unquestioned (see blog post about growth rate). But the smart digital agencies aren’t satisfied with consuming that piece of the marketing pie. They figure that if they can master the digital component – widely recognized as the most complicated aspect of marketing – surely they can handle traditional branding and advertising. I see a horse. His name is Trojan.

As social media (see blog post on social media’s role) becomes a more important part of public relations, this argument becomes more valid. It’s further supported by the increasing ties between online and offline media, with traditional media tactics driving traffic to landing pages (see blog post about landing page testing) and campaign microsites.

This is not just a national, big agency trend. In every market in the country, digital agencies are adding PR 2.0 divisions to specialize in social media, and are trying to deliver traditional services. With the digital marketing DNA being firmly rooted in measurement and analytics, digital shops are using tracking reports and low cost new media tactics to convince advertisers that they know a better way.

Forty Agency in Chandler, Arizona is a good example. Formerly a Web design and application development firm, they have branched out into branding and social media PR. They’re not doing broadcast production or traditional media buying, but that’s a logical next step. 

Agencies, the time is now

This is the official call to arms. Traditional agencies have to get serious about digital marketing now (see blog post about how to embrace digital). Not only are you not tapping into your clients’ digital budget, but you run the risk of those clients beginning to think that their beloved advertising and PR agencies just haven’t kept up with the times.

Agencies that want to do the “easy” digital stuff like building Web sites, but don’t want to get their hands dirty with SEO, analytics, or other numbers and process intensive services just perpetuate clients’ thinking that digital shops understand the future better than traditional firms.

It’s not too late. Is digital marketing complicated? Absolutely. Is it out of reach for advertising and PR firms that want to commit to it? Absolutely not. But you have to take the plunge pretty soon, or the curve to catch up will be exceedingly steep.


Comments? Any digital agencies want to admit to their master plan? Any traditional shops feeling threatened and ready to do something about it?


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