At MediaPost's Online Media, Marketing and Advertising (OMMA) Global Conference yesterday, the website's Editor-in-Chief Joe Mandese led a panel discussion about whether ad agencies are positioned to "tackle the opportunities and challenges" of social media.
At issue was whether the big guys can stave off competition of specialist agencies - something the industry failed to do during the first stages of the digital revolution which witnessed the birth of pure-play digital agencies and the created a major fragmentation in the way that clients' marketing and advertising needs were managed.
Antony Young argued that agencies must partner to adequately navigate through the social space - whether that is with their clients or other agencies.
“Social media isn't just this land grab that one agency ought to own. Everyone should contribute to how to expand social platforms. One important thing to not do is to say 'this belongs in one agency's court'. Every agency should bring a social prospective to their discipline.”
In regards to whether it is the agency's or the brand's role to manage the presence in social media, Young thinks clients and all their partners all have a role. “Everyone's got to bring a social lens to their role in communications – it shouldn't sit with one person or department.”
Marita Scarfi agreed that social is pervasive within an organization. “This is not just a marketing issue. This is a sales issue. This is a retail channel issue. It touches every part of the organization. We as a single agency can't solve all those problems...You have to partner. You need to know what the best strategy is and then partner with others [on behalf of] your client.”
Learn from the past
Big agencies were slow out of the gate in terms of integrating digital into their core offerings. Many struggled - and still do - with how to fit digital into their corporate structure and processes. I also believe that many agency teams become myopic and spend too much time focusing on the immediate needs of their clients, or the brief that just crossed their desk, rather than spending (unbillable) time learning about new technologies and trends that impact their industry.
“If you look at the creative agencies, they were slow to jump into the digital world. That's why a lot of digital agencies found their footing,” Young pointed out.
Scarfi feels that “it was a big mistake for agencies to separate media and creative into separate agencies...We shouldn't separate media and creative - they inform each other too much.”
Young countered that “collaboration is important [between media and creative agencies]…but you don't have to be sitting in one building.”
Brands face more challenges than just figuring out how to manage social media internally (covering the needs of sales, customer service, marketing, etc.) and how to manage their marketing programs across sometimes multiple agencies.
With so many people trying to get a piece of the pie, and everyone from their customer service reps to Board members asking why the brand hasn't tried tactic XYZ with the latest flavor-of-the-month social media channel, brands need the confidence to stay the course.
“Brands have to be fanatical about sticking to their strategy and plan,” noted Joshua Spanier.
Scarfi agreed. “You must start with your brand experience. A lot of tactics get out there and it just makes things worse.”
Creating the right content is a challenge facing agencies.
“Creatives today are not good at coming up with long-form programmatic ideas," according to Spanier. "They are trained in short forms [banners, etc]. That is a challenge for creative agencies.”
“Long-form content is really key to social. That is the big shift for most of us...You have to understand that it's a relationship more so than it ever has been,” added Scarfi.
So CAN the big agencies integrate social? Joshua Spanier's opinion sums up the agency point of view nicely: “It's so complicated, we don't need more silos.”
Media agencies face a struggle to stay relevant
Lousy photos taken with my iPhone.
It's Complicated image courtesy of Wikipedia.