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Digital Agencies. Now is the Time!

With so much of the marketing world playing out in the online and mobile space, why are digital agencies still content to let general market agencies drive the bus?

I understand managing the technology is a time-consuming and mystifying endeavor but why is that enough? Digital shops have a perfect opportunity, right now, to take the lead. They just need to step above their current capabilities and seize it.

I see the occasional shop creating some content but it's still very tactical. I'm talking about stepping up and driving brand strategy and lead generating content.

From now on, every new means of communication, every new platform and online consumer connection point will be tech-driven. Audiences will find them first and when their numbers become too large to ignore, the agency world will finally tip-toe in. And they will be so pleased with themselves that they won't even notice the innovators, who found the platform, are quietly moving on to the next thing.

So I want to speak directly to the digital agencies out there:

Embrace these new opportunities and get out in front helping clients understand what is real and what is not. Determine for them what has lasting power and immerse yourself in it so you can help clients learn how to play while the platform is gaining popularity rather than losing it.

General market agencies will always deny then minimize these opportunities for two main reasons:

1. They want their clients to keep spending money the old way because that's how the agency's profit model works best. This is even more true for agencies reporting to a holding company because an elevated stock price rules all.

2. Agencies have always spoken to passive audiences. They really have no idea how to speak to an audience that wants and expects to take immediate action. They have no idea where to take them.

So, digital shops everywhere, it is time to step up your game beyond adding "Content" to your list of capabilities. It's great to handle smaller projects that fly under the radar of the ad agency or even the CMO at times but there is so much more you should be doing.

It's time to present the obvious and give that CMO sound reasons to shift the responsibility for understanding, attracting, engaging, motivating and measuring the online audience to the digital agency.

Here are five things you will need to do:

1. Assume responsibility for being the guys to vet all new digital opportunities before they explode. Then show your clients how to play and tell their story correctly because every platform plays by its own rules and context is key.

2. Don't put "audience-building" (not sales) content creation on your current creative people. It's not what they do. Source a best-in-class network of freelancers/influencers for each type of opportunity; thinking "horses for courses" because, again, context is important.

3. Contract with a good consumer planner to work with your digital media planner(s) and data scientists to make the strongest, ongoing case for the difference between an active and a passive audience and help your clients understand how too many purchase decisions are being made without them.

4. Demonstrate how to properly design and build the content pathway back to the brand. Ad agencies are clueless in this because it often means using versioned content to accelerate visitors from casual interest to first purchase and all the way to loyal evangelists. Always offer the next logical step and never leave a dead end.

5. Find production and post-production partners who understand and will support your need for speed. The more innovative companies recognize the need for near real time responses because opportunities come and go quickly. Don't worry, they are out there.

In addition to recognizing opportunities, data scientists will help you tweak your content based on audience reactions. Having a post-production partner who is built for making quick changes is very important.

And finally:

You team players so let the CMO know that if there is any money left in the budget for general advertising, the ad agency is welcome to follow your strategic and creative lead.

This is your space! Own it!

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