As marketing budgets get tighter and come under increasing scrutiny to prove ROI, it’s no longer enough for digital agencies to simply be an external supplier or service provider the in-house marketing team can lean on for support.
When it comes to modern business and marketing strategy, be it new product creation, multi channel campaigning or technical development, the digital first directive adopted by many brands today is driving a resurrection of the full service digital agency.
It’s undeniable that while the digital boom has presented infinite opportunities to brands and marketers, it’s also brought increased fragmentation to the world of digital agencies as specialist teams set up shop to cater to every developing aspect. As digital marketing continues to evolve, the increased spread of knowledge and specialisms within the sector is bringing with it the birth of a more informed client.
The new full service digital agency model is more than just about delivering ROI - it’s about being able to create a clear strategy informed by the client’s business and customers to ignite transformation across the organisation. While digital agencies have often sat at the rear of this process, traditionally offering their expertise and reverse engineering strategies at the delivery stage, clients are increasingly asking more questions, demanding greater insight, and looking for more strategic input from their marketing partners.
And that is exactly what we, as agencies, should be. Partners. Partners who can engage and help influence key business decisions.
With digital sitting at the core of how brands communicate with customers, and where they engage and transact with them, digital agencies need to become as comfortable at a business consultancy level as they are in the creative and technology areas. At the same time, they still need capabilities to track, report, personalise and automate platform and campaign initiatives to drive increased business performance.
With wave after wave of new tech fads emerging (wearables, VR, Chatbots), it can often be difficult for our clients to understand and make sense of what’s really worthwhile investing for their business. As the digital agency’s role evolves, there is an increasing responsibility to educate our clients on what they should be investing in right now as well as in the future.
However, this does not mean having to offer every possible service. It does mean being able to offer an end-to-end agency model which can take a client from strategy and consultation to execution in a clearly refined process. This provides an opportunity for stronger agency-client relationships, better opportunities for innovation, and ensures creative integration across marketing activity which is measurable, adaptable and ultimately accountable to one party. This facilitates innovation with a purpose, as opposed to short term, trend driven initiatives.
By having that strategic business insight from the beginning of the process, supported by all the deep-rooted data into the business processes and how/where it’s interacted with, agencies are able to offer solutions which will help to solve real problems. The end result therefore not only ticks the creative checkbox, but also delivers against the tangible business objectives.
For me, the next step ahead in digital is the reconnection of strategy and creative as a blended discipline - after all, one undeniably feeds into the other. So why shouldn’t they be delivered by the same team? As the agency world continues to become populated with increasingly skilled and tech-savvy creatives, each offering a different skillset and approach, those that will prosper are those who adapt to this brave new world. Those brave enough to break down the industry silos and embrace the changing marketplace.