Digital Marketing Companies and the future of the [
Digital] Advertising Agency.
What is the future of digital marketing companies?
I have been asking myself this question for the last five years.
Should the digital marketing companies of today become more holistic marketing companies that focus on helping clients with all of marketing’s 4 Ps (or 5, 6, 7 Ps)? Or should they become more like traditional ad agencies with a specialization in digital? It could also be a question of Madmen vs. Mathmen; should digital marketing companies become consultancies that focus on solving problems with big data first, ignoring experience, intuition, and creativity?
I believe digital marketing companies need to adjust to survive. And while traditional ad agencies use to have huge gaps in being able to plan and execute digital marketing activities, they’ve caught up and patched those holes.
So what does it mean that digital marketing companies need to change, and what exactly about them is the problem?
Am I the only one that feels this change needs to occur?
I went in search of supporting views to back up my own intuition and feelings (which I’ll share with you toward the end). I also included the future of advertising in my search. My gut tells me the future of digital advertising agencies is a merged path.
Let’s explore what the future of digital advertising looks like:
The future of digital advertising is communications in connected spaces…
If you ask Bob Greenberg, the mastermind behind R/GA (R/GA is considered the goliath in digital advertising), he has a completely unique view of the future. He believes, “…digitally connected environments are the future of advertising.” Bob created R/GA after being inspired by Mosaic (an early internet browser, like Chrome); “When I saw that, I couldn’t get out of what I was doing fast enough in order to create an agency for the digital age.” And in 1995 he took his company called R/Greenberg Associates and changed it from a movie title/advertising CGI company to an interactive agency. In 2013, Greenberg started to move the company into “connected spaces.” When asked what that means, here’s his response:
[The future is] “…a branded ecosystem. Nike has one. Amazon. Google. And certainly, Apple—probably the most famous. But that type of thing is what we started to move into in 2013. By 2015, two years later, we started to see that everything was going to be connected: connected cars, connected universities, connected athletes, connected shopping. So we moved to a much a bigger tagline: ‘Connected by Design.’”
The future of digital advertising is equality & age…
If you ask P&G’s Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, advertisers are focusing on Gender equality, generational changes (age). “As a company, we’re now focusing not just on millennials but boomers as well. That’s the next area – the age portion is probably the next frontier. But we’ve got efforts in each of those areas. Watch this space.” Marc also brought up gender equality at Cannes in 2018, “The more gender-equal an ad is, it has been shown that you get a 10% increase in trust and a 26% increase in sales growth.”
The future of digital advertising is programmatic and account-based advertising…
If you’re Kevin Arsham, a Media Director at Mediacom, you focus heavily on a media buyers’ approach. According to Arsham, the future for media buying is an integrated, multi-layered approach with the latest “shiny objects” layered into a programmatic mix. “Programmatic and account-based marketing brought them[buyers] to the finish line with greater speed, efficiency and target abilities.” He continues with his view on the future: “It is back to the races, and the race starts with the highest cost per click you can pay to grab the buyer who has shown the strongest interest. Balance is key and every effort to market to an industry should continue to have a direct-buy component with two or three trade publishers.”
Survival is for those who embrace CHANGE!
Michael Kassan, CEO at MediaLink said this in an interview on Adage in April of 2018: “”Nobody has a crystal ball and nobody can say the agency of the future will be this way or that way,” says Kassan. “But what we can say is that there has to be a true willingness for the agency of the future to be more adaptive and reflective of clients’ needs. Only the ones who can adapt will survive.”
Digital marketing companies: an end to a Faux era
The future is:
- More AI and Voice in B2B marketing like Arsham points out.
- It is more connected spaces, a higher integration of communication throughout all platforms as R/GA’s Greenberg envisions it.
- The Future in advertising more inclusion, with a greater focus on equality as P&G’s Pritchard calls it…
You know what the future of advertising IS NOT? The DIGITAL MARKETING COMPANY!
That’s a bold sentence coming from a founding partner of an agency who 95% of their clients come from a “search-first” approach.
Digital Marketing is another tool in the tool box.
Digital marketing is only a term; a term used simply as packaging wrapped around a plethora of tactical activities that occur in an advertising campaign.
And this digital marketing term (powered by a lack of understanding & service offerings at full service/traditional ad agencies) turned into companies called digital marketing companies. However, the future of advertising isn’t “digital marketing,” just like it wasn’t “Print and Collateral” when advertising really kicked off in America in the mid-1800s.
The successful agencies of tomorrow will ditch the term “digital marketing” all together.
Back in 2015, then President of Pepsico, Brad Jakeman screamed from the mountaintop that digital marketing shouldn’t even exist. In front of thousands of marketing and advertising professionals, at the Association of National Advertising’s annual “Masters of Marketing” conference professed (via adage)…
…digital marketing is the “most ridiculous term I’ve ever heard.” He added: “There is no such thing as digital marketing. There is marketing — most of which happens to be digital.” He urged marketers to create digital cultures, not digital departments. “We ‘ghettoize’ digital as though it’s the life raft tethered to the big ocean liner. And we have to move on from that.”’
I couldn’t agree more!
Not that the CEO of a machine such as Pepsi needs validation from a pion such as me, however are any of the change agents in our industry shouting:
“BRING ME MORE DIGITAL MARKETING COMPANIES THAT FOCUS ON LINK BUILDING!”
“GOOGLE PPC IS OUR STRATEGY!!!”
Not even close!
They’re shouting we need more personalization, flexibility, more diversity. All of which (at an abstract level) are methods of solving marketing problems through understanding the consumer better.
What we do at Endurance
We provide strategy, not digital marketing.
We provide search optimization services, not digital marketing
We provide paid advertising consulting, not digital marketing.
We create and execute marketing campaigns, research, and big ideas! We don’t create and execute digital marketing.
We are problem solvers who use all the tools at our disposal to address consumer needs.
The future of using digital in advertising is to kill the digital marketing company
The future of advertising (via digital, broadcast, outdoor, etc.) is reaching consumers with messaging that evokes an emotion and invokes action.
I understand how the term “digital marketing company” came into existence. Twenty years (or so) ago, agencies holistically resisted change when the internet became a platform on which advertising activities could occur. Ignore that which we don’t understand (something traditional agencies did through complacency) and over time companies focusing on “digital” marketing activities were born.
But the term (Digital Marketing Company) is tainted, negatively left wanting by the black hat link brokers and shifty SEO companies (some of which still exist today).
What about boutique digital agencies?
The need for specialized services isn’t going anywhere. I am not advocating that boutique, digital service agencies that focus on specialized service offerings should be consumed by larger agencies or close their doors all together. Just like boutique agencies that focus on idea generation, print & collateral, or UX/UI exist today, digital needs the same boutique services (SEO, Content, Social, and more).
I believe the culture of spending PPC dollars (a tactic) without a clear strategy, or spamming Google with garbage (the source of many link building companies), or conducting an SEO audit as a SERP improvement strategy needs to end. If you’re a content generation powerhouse, call yourself a content development company. If a company focuses purely on SEO activities, call yourself a search optimization firm. If you build legit links with care and high-quality content, call yourself a link building specialist. Please do not call your company a digital marketing company.
For us all to win, everyone needs to kill “digital marketing company.” It is a wrapper used incorrectly and has been tainted by every Bob, Tom, or Jim offering any array of advertising functions through digital means.
At Endurance. We lead with search. We do this because this is what we believe user behavior dictates. If a user needs an answer to a question, they turn to Google first!
However, we’re not afraid to suggest Direct Mail if that’s simply the best way to reach your consumers. We get to know consumer and we’re not going to shove paid down your throat to turn a buck if social is where your money should be. We want to work within the bounds of sound marketing strategy and use the plethora of advertising tools at our disposal.
We believe in our approach to understand the consumer’s plight, we believe in setting your advertising up for the long haul, we believe in endured advertising campaigns.
Welcome to Endurance.