What’s the fuss about digital agencies?

People keep asking me, “What’s the fuss about digital agencies? Just a bunch of young hipsters and geeks making out that they are something special. No more, no less.”

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Well, the answer is both Yes and No.

On the one hand, digital agencies, relatives of the marketing agencies, are just another agency. So, what’s an agency? Well, a ‘marketing’ agency, for example, used to act as the execution sub-department of the marketing department, an outsourced ideas/creative team at a fraction of the cost of having permanent staff. So, the key aspects of an agency are independent expertise and delivering value for money. And neither aspect (expertise and value-for-money) has changed.

So, if the agency piece is no different from the past then is it the digital piece that makes them so special? Again, I don’t think so. Digital agencies are just 21st Century versions of Madmen, the TV series, looking for ways to help clients make more sales. And maybe that is the point: everything and nothing has changed.

The fuss about digital agencies is actually nothing other than the fact that they are a distillation of everything that a modern-minded agency needs to and should be. And that is exciting.

Results are at the centre of everything they do. All outputs are visible by all. As such, the agency’s effectiveness is there for all to see. For example, the campaign costs $x and generates y leads or z sales. The campaign costs $x and it would have cost 20% more if we had tried to do it ourselves. More importantly, the agency has expertise we don’t have nor wish to manage. So, first and foremost, what makes digital agencies special is this sense that they are naked: they deliver on their promises or they fail. However, there is more that makes them such a special case…

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