SPOS #187 – The Digital Marketing Agency Debate With Joseph Jaffe And Aaron Strout

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Welcome to episode #187 of Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast. Here is a pretty heated (but full of mutual love and respect) debate with Joseph Jaffe (author of Life After The 30-Second Spot, Join The Conversation and Flip The Funnel, Blogger over at Jaffe Juice and Chief Interrupter at Powered) about the value of a Social Media Agency versus a Digital Marketing Agency. The debate was inspired by the AdWeek article, The New Social Gurus, which also focused on how Jaffe’s company, Crayon, was recently acquired by Powered. The article made some very "interesting" points, which I commented on in this Blog post: Social Media Gurus – That Old Chestnut. Aaron Strout (CMO of Powered at Blogger over at Citizen Marketer 2.1) acted as moderator/referee/voice of reason. Enjoy the conversation…

Here it is: Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast – Episode #187 – Host: Mitch Joel.

Please join the conversation by sending in questions, feedback and ways to improve Six Pixels Of Separation. Please let me know what you think or leave an audio comment at: +1 206-666-6056.

Download the Podcast here: Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast – Episode #187 – Host: Mitch Joel.


  1. I’ve given the show a listen (and will need to listen a second time tomorrow to digest more) and have to say I see both your points on what constitutes a digital marketing agency. But, I can’t be a lemming as Joe would say, and agree with everything. I still don’t agree that social media strategies, tactics and execution *always* belong in the digital/marketing arena. Sometimes – depending on the goals – companies outreach socially with a customer service or public relations slant. Unless of course you ultimately believe all of that belongs under digital marketing as well.
    The examples Mitch brought up of @Zappos & @Dell for solid social media examples to my knowledge were homegrown from within the companies and not crafted strategies. I could be wrong. Personally, the Fiskars/Fiskateers initiative by Brains on Fire is my personal favorite long term success story. I would love to hear all three of your views of good social examples.
    While I don’t make any claims of being a digital marketer, I have been developing technical strategies for almost 20 years. Technology has morphed since those days, but solid analytics, architecture, strategy, tactics, deployment, and assessments never go out of style. I find my firm being contacted every week to help bring web shops, agencies and marketing firms up to date with their social media and technical offerings. Larger shops like Twist Image & Powered may have the capacity in-house or through acquisition to handle it, but smaller shops don’t – and outsource. There are hundreds of smaller/local brands that are being serviced by smaller shops that can’t carry the headcount – or don’t have the experience with social. A lot of them are looking for DIY help and strategy. They may fly under your radar, but not mine. And no, shops like me do not scale. My team is my team and as much as I would like to clone us, it is a difficult skill set to hire/duplicate/train.
    I feel what keeps the whole thing floating (besides the obvious everyday-customer/person) is not the high-recognition brands, but the more common ‘mom & pop’ type businesses, brands, and interactions that take place on social platforms. Zappos and Ford alone don’t carry the weight of proving social media technologies and conversations work.
    Disclaimer : Although it was what seems to be a million years ago, I worked at Crayon for a bit of time back when they were working on the Coke / SL initiative. “We’ve all come a long way, baby…”

  2. I have a bit of criticism and thought to share on this episode.
    The first bit is.. my day job is not marketing.. so.. I don’t know if it was just so inside baseball in a sense.. but I could never quite work out what the hell you guys were arguing about. I wasn’t even totally convinced you were arguing.. accept that it seemed like you were insisting you were arguing.. or debating anyways. So yeah.. I guess it just wasn’t real clear to me.
    The second bit is..
    I’ve sorta independently come to a lot of the same positions on Social Media as David Weinberger… maybe I’m like a radical estranged cousin or something.. but.. my feeling is like this..
    We have these boxes we put stuff in. The boxes are how we compartmentalize reality.. they are the words and definitions we use.. how we organize reality in our minds.. and it goes all the way down to.. if you say “I’m a” fill in the blank.. career wise.. you say of all the information in the universe.. this is the information that is important for your career goals an aim.. and what fits into this box has traditionally been somewhat static.. or the lines that delineate it have been.. static enough so you can say “and this is what marketing programs in schools should teach” and we can talk about all the stuff marketers should be in command of and..
    But my view of it is that the boxes serve a purpose and it’s the purpose that should delineate the box shape. It’s a question of what you’re trying to achieve.. and.. I think we live at a cross roads between a world where we inherit off the shelf boxes, and a world where we make our own boxes. It’s like the world where school is about becoming a cog in a system versus what is important for creativity.
    It seemed to me that the whole argument was about boxes. I mean that’s what I came away with.. I look at Joe and I say.. “well this is who Joe is,” and I think his box system should be organically related to who he is.. because that’s how he’ll achieve the most.. but I mean that’s not how you or I would arrange the boxes.. and not how we should arrange the boxes.. cause that’s not how we will achieve the most we can achieve.
    So sorta looking at it from that point of view.. I mean you can say.. look.. the trick is to triangulate your skills, passions, and the market place.. and so in that sense there’s a question of how far one should go in optimizing the boxes to your own being versus using a box system that is collectively shared.. because we collectively hold these challenges in common.. and thus learn from one another this way.. and its useful to have an agreed upon language and.. blah blah blah..
    So in some sense I think its like a conflict between Apollo and Dionysius in the sense that on the one hand you have a spirit moved for civilizing of.. whatever.. importance of rules.. and on the other hand you have a spirt that is more destructive.. but a creative destruction.. good for bring the new values into being.. to take a kind of Nietzscheian track through it.. and you can say both these spirits / forces are very important in the sorta evolutionary flow of society.
    So in a way self destruction in good. Its good in the way that growing can be about cycles of death and rebirth.. like a serial entrepreneur gong after lots of failures.. lets try this.. lets try that..
    In that sense.. you can look at what Jaffe’s doing and go “well that doesn’t seem like a smart move” but.. in saying that it’s like there’s a metaphysical presumption that bad moves are bad.. or that failure isn’t a path to success.. but if the failure is one that has to do with something organically related to who you are in the sorta deepest ways.. then that failure is about your own becoming.. and so you gain something from that.. and so I think it’s better to fail in that sense.
    Not that we even know Joseph will fail, right? I mean I think he takes a position that highlights certain values that I think are important to be highlighted.. this idea of social being bigger then digital..
    I don’t know.. I find myself thinking about.. how the digital channels can feel like a game.. don’t blame the player blame the game.. but I feel like there’s more possibilities of games to be played then games I see being played.. and I don’t know.. I’m in some sense in revolt about the whole thing…
    I find myself looking at Beat generation poets.. the revolt against the system, against the power structure.. and in some strange sense.. so much of what the internet and social media is about.. I think sorta comes from the Beats.. like its this dialectical reaction to industrialization.. the post modern shtick.. but there’s not too many voices I hear in social media that are in any way in revolt.. there’s no deeper thing in our spirit that we are bringing into being..
    And what are the sorta ethical issues that are like.. what we owe to humanity as we shepherd business into these new channels?
    In my imagination I sometimes think of Jaffe as having this kinda master slave kind of sexuality expressing its self in his relationship with his audience. The kinda sub dom sexual world.. I think of being an operatic expression of love as we would more conventionally understand it.. I don’t know what the hell I’m trying to say, or where I’m going with this.. but
    I suppose its interesting to watch you guys try and dance?

  3. With respect to all involved, this was painful.
    I listened as long as I could and never heard the discussion once go to the consumer. I suppose a self-referential, agency-centric positioning debate has some value but, at the end of the day, all that really matters is whether the bits that agencies put out there are meaningful to the consumer.
    Modern consumers live a fluid digital lifestyle. They are not conscious of (and, frankly, don’t care) when they are switching between web, marketing, ecommerce, mobile and social channels.
    The truly good agencies see a single digital world and put the focus on coming up with ideas people care about and deliver them in integrated and meaningful ways.

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