An article from June, AdAge ran an interesting perspective on the death of the digital agency. The author, Mary Ellen Dugan, based her commentary on evolving the creative agency model, but the points raised nonetheless rang true in my more media-oriented world. Chief among them (although the article itself is never as direct as the headline) is the realization that Digital Media is dead.
[pause for effect]
Of course, digital media is very much alive and well in 2019. The world we all inhabit has never been more digitized and more connected. While every medium is increasingly more digital, specializing in digital media, while still a solid career choice, may not be as “futureproof” as it seemed to be when Harmelin first hired me twelve years ago.
Digital media tactics are still all too easy to confuse for a strategy. I had a professor in grad school who held that there was no such thing as a social media “strategy.” He didn’t dispute social media’s effectiveness, but his thirty years as a marketing executive had made him wary of any single silver bullet for effective communication. If your “strategy” consisted of a single channel, it was a tactic.
Maximizing media effectiveness requires understanding how technology changes the way we consume information. For brands, this means understanding media touchpoints as the consumer experiences them; how each individual media exposure informs the next, and responding accordingly. As the lines between paid, owned, and earned sources blur, our strategies as marketers need to become more integrated, not more specialized.
Dugan’s article goes on to stress:
Agencies that are winning have a new, technology-first mindset that they’ve fully integrated across their organizations. They’ve created new teams with web developers and creatives side by side, and in some cases, they’ve reimagined their entire model based on the idea that technology—not a new campaign or higher media spend—is the way of the future and their pathway to success.
It’s much the same for a media agency. New messaging or an increased budget may improve our chances, but it’s through technology – or more accurately, the data it generates – that we’ll find our pathway to success.
To that end, we’ve also had to create new teams that blend developer, analyst and media expertise. Tech-first teams at a media agency experiment by nature. In our case, it’s about moving past adding reach by adding digital. Instead, we hypothesize about the complex web of touchpoints a consumer can generate as they flit between media and set a learning agenda to guide us to optimizing where and when media can be most effective in that journey. It’s as much understanding the value added by each incremental media exposure as it is strategically “surrounding” consumers with messaging in what is an increasingly cluttered media landscape.
While digital media accounts for an ever-larger share of media expenditures, focusing exclusively on it is to ignore what is still a significant interest in mass media. By investing in proprietary solutions that empower us to bridge data across channels, we can marry the promise of the latest technology with the scale of the most proven.
At Harmelin, we share the belief that every company in the future will in its own way need to be a technology company. We also believe that change is most successful when it is an evolution, not a revolution. Whether it’s rethinking team structures, the utility of your services or the resources you’ll require to be successful, finding ways to make technology more accessible can dramatically alter the pace of change. Deploying technology won’t save your business on its own but staffing people who are more adept at leveraging it just might.