With everybody racing to provide just the right digital strategy for businesses and marketers, what distinguishes one agency from another anymore?

Distinguish? Really? Isn’t just offering digital content enough?

In a blog post, digital brand strategist David Schwartz urged ad agencies to “stop faking it” and to start getting noticed by creating bona fide digital content:

You look foolish when you claim to offer digital services and your website is out of date, you haven’t blogged in 9 months or your social media profiles updated three times within the last year.

Schwartz went on to offer a few ideas necessary for marketers to grasp. As in right away:

  • The Internet Has Leveled the Playing Field: Agencies can’t expect to drum up new leads the way it was done 20 years ago. Smaller and medium-sized players have to demonstrate digital expertise. Period.
  • Keep Mad Men Where They Belong: On an entertaining TV show – not choking your clients in a cloud of cigar smoke as they share war stories with clients in a Martini bar. Schmooze your VIPs the new-fashioned way – writing a new blog post, jazzing up a Slide Show presentation or dropping in on a Google Hangout. And still enjoy those vermouth-laced olives — on your own.
  • Give Some Things Away: Generously share your digital content. For free. As time goes on, those Twitter Chats or Hangout conversations will have the result of propelling your comments to the top of search lists. Making you sound like an in-demand, accessible expert rather than a grudgingly tolerated, high-priced windbag.
  • Champion Transparency: Schwartz notes that when he started out in the ad biz, the feeling was that “if you weren’t lying then you weren’t trying hard enough.” People are no longer willing to play that game, he suggests. So why should you? As he says, “If you think you are fooling prospects you are only fooling yourself.”
  • Resist Covering All the Bases for Everyone: Instead, pick a certain type of client, focus your content in that direction and work to become known as an expert that way. Keep things steady and consistent and eventually followers will spread the word about you as being a capable, reliable and trusted steward of the messages they want to broadcast.

And now, for something completely different….

David Cooperstein, writing at Advertising Age, says that mere digital expertise simply won’t cut it anymore. Being customer-obsessed is where it’s at. And that agencies looking to distinguish themselves will probably do so in one of three major ways:

  1. 1.


    The advent of new tech such as virtual-reality film and video editing, wearable computers and low-power location sensors are great on their own. And, naturally, companies are eager to use what they can to get a leg up. The team that can figure out ways to combine these resources will probably have a distinct advantage over others that merely rely on them individually. Why? Businesses will need help in keeping up with competitors who find innovative ways to leverage technology. That kind of unique approach will require creative thought and synchronicity of resources. Example: T3 came up with a service bridge idea that helped UPS customers re-route deliveries so that they didn’t miss the driver’s visit. Innovating in this way will appeal to Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) who want to radically change the way they offer services or develop products.

  2. 2.


    Think people have short attention spans now? Wait another minute and measure again. Forrester Research says that money spent on digital media will account for 27% of all paid ads. Portending as that sounds, traditional media will also need to be a critical part of campaigns. Agencies that can deliver on a whole range of the marketing mix will likely appeal to clients looking to get beyond push strategies. And we do that how? Not by repeating the same message from medium to medium. But by tailoring each message to the best form for each interaction. Example: So that your teenage kid doesn’t say of your YouTube channel, “You did the same clip for TV? Fail.”

  3. 3.


    Hey, CMOs and CIOs — working and playing well with others both begin at the top, right? Above and beyond who’s going to be the Campaign’s Supreme Commander and filtering harmoniously down to the troops? All of whom embrace the notion of relying on one another for a successful outcome. Star implementers will have the wherewithal to connect IT and marketing in – you know what’s coming – synergistic ways. Example: IBM connects the company’s internal supply chains with its teams of e-commerce specialists to keep accurate inventory levels. Because who wants to run out of gigundo server-router thingies when a client returns a sales call and orders 140 of them, pronto?

Cooperstein adds that it’s not out of the question for one agency to try to serve marketing needs across all three areas. Even so, no one agency will probably be able to satisfy every single one of a CMOs needs.

Increasingly, he suggests, agencies will need to drive toward their strengths.

That is why we expect tomorrow’s agency frontrunners to hone in on what they’re great at.David Cooperstein

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