Digital Marketing Agencies Should Not Adjust Campaigns For The Web But Lead The Brand Strategy

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Normally, after reading a Blog posting title like that, the standard response is, "here Mitch goes again…" It turns out that I have nothing to do with that statement, because it comes from a recent Forrester Research study, according to Advertising Age Magazine and the article, To Lead Overall Brand Strategy, Digital Shops Have Much To Do, which was published this past Tuesday.

"The report suggests interactive agencies are better positioned to take over brand strategy than traditional agencies because of the data and insight they are able to cull from interactive channels and because consumer behaviour is shifting toward such channels. But to get there, digital agencies need to develop four core capabilities, according to the report: measurement and analytics, audience research, cross-channel integration and social media."

Another fascinating turn of events and proof positive that most Consumer’s first interaction with a brand or pre-purchase research is increasingly happening online. The focus of my keynote presentation at last year’s Canadian Marketing Association National Convention and Trade Show was on this topic. It was called, Burn The Ships, with the idea being that Digital Marketers need to lead the advertising and branding direction in this day and age. The Web is a fully-immersive and an interactive environment (as you know). To take traditional advertising campaigns and adapt them for the Web is not pushing brands forward, but drawing them back. On top of that, because of the Digital Channel you can actually create compelling media content that supplements and compliments the traditional campaigns – creating stuff you can’t do anywhere else.

"’Increasingly marketers are realizing that [offline and online] has to be integrated … but interactive agencies have not yet proven they have the capability to manage brand strategy,’ said Brian Haven, senior analyst at Forrester Research and the author of The Forrester Wave: Interactive Marketing Agencies."

That should not surprise you either and I don’t read that as "bad news." From Human Resources to accountability, to the overall youth of the industry, to see this shift take place will take time and, as mentioned above, a higher level of engagement on the part of the Digital Marketing agencies. The Advertising Age Article continues to dissect which types of Digital Marketing shops seem closer to being able to make this transition happen.

There’s a meta theme here that might hold some water: because engagement in Marketing, Advertising and Communications has become increasingly complex over the years, now, with the sudden uptake in Digital Channel usage, perhaps Digital Marketing shops do need to take control of Brand Strategy simply because of the multiple factors that are layered on to the chances of creating a successful initiative. Digital Marketing shops have to know more about the brand strategy and the consumer insights to create a winning campaign. With all of these moving parts, Digital Marketing agencies may well be on the cusp of leading the Brand Strategy as well.


  1. I think for some digital agencies there is a fifth capability that needs to be improved and that’s account management.
    Traditional agencies have had years of experience in client management, they know how to listen and then deliver.
    That is one competancy that can be lacking in the digital world.

  2. I read Brian’s post but haven’t been able to access the forrester report yet so I probably should reserve judgment (but of course I won’t)….
    Most traditional agencies don’t have skills in those four things he’s talking about so how they got on his things required for brand strategists of the future list I’m not exactly sure.
    What required strategist do have however, is an understanding of marketing, branding and the notion of a conceptual idea/territory. I get giddy when I meet digital CDs who actually present three concepts and not three executions (a rare commodity indeed).
    Anyone can lead brand strategy if they have the right people with the right mind set in their organization. The reason I have always thought digital should come into its own in this arena is mostly because the world requires networked brands that are dimensional and media agnostic. Who better can get that than people who work with networks on a daily basis?
    So while I agree with Brian, I didn’t really understand where he was coming from at all. I’ll look forward to seeing the actual report at some point and seeing if what I’m saying here still holds true.

  3. I think everything you both mentioned are true and, more importantly, realistic for Digital Marketing agencies to tackle.
    I guess the challenge/opportunity lies in the fact that these are either new competencies or ones that Digital Marketers will need to look to other industries for the right people to bring over and perfect.

  4. Arguably, the biggest trap of a digital agency is that the people who work there are at risk of being far too in love with the technology side of the business. In other words, pitch it because it’s “cool”, not necessarily pitch it because it’s strategic.
    Companies fall into this trap, too, though. Those who want a blog just because “everyone else is blogging”. Those who want to jazz up their website with all the things that they keep hearing about (thanks to people like you, Mitch) without a firm understanding of what’s right for them.
    In short, allowing the technology to dictate the strategy, not the other way around, is where the trap lies.

  5. It seems to me that the same old traditional strategies of marketing haven’t gone away with the birth of interactive media. Instead, it’s just easier to implement.
    Still approach a project the same way – what’s right for the client. Only now, you have more tools in your toolbox.
    Interactive media is like the birth of power tools. I’m still cutting a board, but I get to use a big hoss miter saw instead of a hand saw.

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