Can Big Agencies Compete?
In a great post on why your big agency won’t get social media, Brian Oberkirch builds on Mike Manuel’s short-but-sweet posts on ‘social media services and billing gaps‘ to make the case that large advertising, media buying or PR shops are not prepared to work in the networked world.
While Brian makes some excellent points, I think it is still way to early to count big agencies out. Most of you know that I'm more prone to point out dinosaurs than defend the old guard, so this might come as a surprise. But those who ignore their strenght do so at their own peril. Here are a few things large agencies have on their side:
My favourite point that Brian makes is the need for marketers to shift from creating content to creating conversations. On that, we agree completely:
- Contacts: It might be an old-school paper Rolodex, but it is full of contacts and relationships.
- Money: They've got the cash to aquire talented individuals ... or entire shops. Competition getting a bit too rough? Buy 'em.
- TV: Social Networks are huge and internet advertising is booming, but TV is still a cash cow, and that's not going to change for quite some time. Brian says "the market for making elaborate :30 films and holding on to the expensive talent this archaic activity requires must be seeing strains," but I think Sorrell and co. would disagree.
- Full service: It isn't just about the internet. Agencies which cannot deliver (or facilitate the delivery of) comprehensive, measurable, integrated campaigns across multiple platforms might as well hang it up. Big or small: They're dead.
- Scale: Your blogging business might be great, but I doubt it can handle a company wth hundreds of products in 34 countries and languages. This is why big international agency networks exist.
These organizations are built to be in the content business. They exist to develop and distribute messages. In the world of social media, content isn’t king. Connection is king. We are all bringing our own share of content to the party now, and companies have to play a much different role in the coming conversations about their products and services. Communication people will come to be valued by how they improve conversations. Not start or manage them. Improve them. Plus them up.He also bullets points the causes of a radical shift in outsourced communications services and gives some examples of "how ‘new’ media approaches from an advertising, media buying or PR shops involve shoe-horning some sort of branded message into a novel, tech-enabled channel."
He is critical of thier inability to keep pace:
In a YouTube world, speed, savvy and responsiveness of our communications (video included) will trump high-production values and the fantasy of a tightly integrated campaign.That's a good point, but there is also the issue of how well agencies can produce integrated campaigns. As I am thinking about chocolate at the moment, here's a silly example:
In England, Kit Kit is marketing the bejeezuz out of their Golden Ticket campaign on Big Brother. They have ads running everywhere and their PR machine is working overtime to gain exposure. God knows how much this cost them. That said, you'd never know it if you checked the Kit Kat site. You have to go on Channel 4s site to read anything about it, and even there you can't discuss it with anyone. How is this possible? They've also launched a funny new ad for the World Cup, but it isn't on YouTube, Google Video or any of the other places you'd expect to find it. But I digress ...
If I've understood it right, Brian suggests that change will happen from the brand-side:
I think the tendency will be towards smarter communication directors and managers rolling their own teams to form ad hoc social media bomb squads, and outsourcing very specific ad creation skills (and not strategy & messaging) to ad shops.I'm not so sure. That assumes that there is a brain trust on the brand side and corporate-level support for these new "bomb squads" to be created. For start-ups and a small (albeit growing) number of companies, this is a no-brainer. For most established brands and organizations - and surprisingly even some new generation brands I've come across - it is a foreign concept and will not be adopted as easily as Brian suggests.
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Thursday, June 01, 2006