Why are we still talking about digital agencies?
As the industry wrestles with ways to keep itself and its clients’ brands relevant for the next 20 years, digital is at the centre of all marketing conversations and can no longer be seen as a separate space.
While spend is dramatically being shifted towards digitally enabled content, digital campaigns are seldom relevant as a standalone delivery. Put in a slightly different context, any digital solution is more powerful when integrated and considered within a through-the-line context – or in the full context of every medium that connects consumers with brands.
The big take out: Ogilvy’s Pete Case argues that the days of standalone digital agencies are numbered – digital works far better as part of a larger marketing context, which is how audiences like to consume media.
Today’s era of marketing marks the beginning of the end for digital agencies and, relatively soon, it may be no more relevant to have a digital agency than it would have been 15 years ago to have had a radio or print agency. Digital is such a layered and pervasive conversation – it’s like oxygen, it’s what we breathe every day and in every marketing opportunity that we approach. Surely it must be a part of what we do, and not in any way apart from it? This is the only way agencies can create brand experiences that weave across the full spectrum of media, and navigate the reality of how the modern consumer interacts with brands and technology daily.
Consumers don’t see advertising in silos, and in response agencies should constantly restructure themselves and their client relationships for this shifting reality. Transmedia content is certainly increasingly the type of creative content with which consumers engage and opt to share with others – and not in the digital context of "passing on", but in the good old-fashioned real world, too.
Beyond the buzzwords, true integration is a product of Ogilvy’s longstanding journey of evolving these delivery ambitions, and this transformation is reflected in the agency’s structure. For the past decade Ogilvy has, along with many other large agencies, been building standalone units, often with sub-branded names. Three years ago, for example, Ogilvy merged with digital agency Gloo, to produce Gloo@Ogilvy. But now that output, with a few specific exceptions, is simply part of what Ogilvy does. The agency operates as a single business and has pushed aside all silos of operation and thinking in the organisation.
The agency operates as a single business and has pushed aside all silos of operation and thinking in the organisation.
This means that brand teams receive a single brief and are expected to consider all media in their response. Budget is then shifted between media accordingly, without fear of damaging siloed profit and loss centres. In this context it’s ever harder to see the role of a pure play digital agency. Specialised digital skills are, of course, still valued and required for some deeper digital contexts. Digital creativity has both conceptual and technical elements to it which flourish best when supported in a broader context.
It’s a way of operating that offers brands large financial economies of scale, which is increasingly what major clients are seeking – because it’s simpler to navigate. In today’s context we need to be marketing at the speed of culture and not relying on annual campaign plans; this approach allows us to do just that. Most importantly, we’ve proven that the work this structure creates gets better results in terms of strengthening genuine brand connection with consumers.
• Case is the chief creative officer at Ogilvy