Almost every agency makes claims to offer “full integration.” But as clients are becoming more digitally savvy themselves, some are realising that what they’re getting for their fees is far from digital excellence. So here’s eight ways to tell if your agency has got their digital act together.
1. Does the agency have a clear vision for the role digital plays in their business? Every agency should be able to describe what digital means for them. Without using flowery agency-speak or the digital buzz-word of the day, the CEO should be able to articulate how digital has changed the way the agency works and where they’re trying to take the business. And if the CEO’s line is “our goal is full integration, and we’re there now”, then probe a bit deeper.
Without a clear vision, integration is impossible and the agency drifts.
2. Do they have a clear digital product offering? Agencies need to make choices about what they do, and don’t do. Should they run community management? Have back-end production in house? Digital has created many opportunities for new services and changes to existing ones. Has the management team made pro-active decisions about what they should offer? Can they demonstrate a clear process, pricing and credentials in an area of digital marketing? Or when you ask if they do something, the answer is always yes?
Agencies that make it up as they go along will be unlikely to deliver best in class service.
3. Does the agency have a spirit of collaboration? The complexity of digital is so great, no one team or even agency can be brilliant at everything under one roof. Working effectively with a large number of internal and external specialists is critical to getting the right expertise at the right time. If your creative strategy is cooked up by two people locked in a darkened room and then jealously protected from the rest of the agencies interference, you’re probably not working with the right agency.
4. Are digital specialists well integrated? Turnover of digital specialists in traditional agencies runs at over 30% a year. One of the main reasons for this is separation from the client-facing teams – they’re treated like they come from the outer reaches of the galaxy. This cuts both ways too – do the experts clearly support the client team or are they visibly disgusted when the AD confuses CPC and CPA for the fifth time in a meeting? Digital teams that are not well integrated are ineffective.
5. Had the agency made investment in staff? Hiring a “digital director” or an “experience planner” isn’t enough to build an integrated agency. For every digital service the agency offers you there should be strength in depth of the people running it. The non-digital specialists should be digitally literate too – otherwise how will they know when to bring their colleagues in at the right time?
Agencies need to significantly up their game in on-the-job training to be integrated.
6. Do you have confidence in the agencies digital production capability? To say that digital production is different to traditional 30 second ads would be a disservice to chalk and cheese. Digital production requires a completely different skill set and a LOT can go wrong. Have you met technically literate producers and project managers who can manage external suppliers effectively? Are they rigorously testing all digital activity before it goes live?
Excellent digital creativity and strategy is worthless without a highly competent production team to make sure it gets delivered right.
7. Your agency should be initiating conversation about compensation for digital work with you. Most digital activity is more time consuming per ad dollar spent. It’s more complex to plan and buy media, produce digital content and maintain digital platforms. Many clients are paying less for digital than traditional work which is unsustainable. A good agency will be able to demonstrate why you need to reconsider your compensation agreement.
Agencies have to change compensation agreements to build a sustainable financial model. If they haven’t realised that yet, you should be worried.
8. What is the culture of your agency? If your agency doesn’t display digital behaviour in their daily life, it’s time to be concerned. Check out what their website is like and how often hey update their Twitter feed. Identify if they give agency staff the freedom to use digital like consumers with access to digital platforms at their desk. Finally be wary if digital is always presented by a young person rather than the CEO/your lead account man – it should be relevant at all levels.
An agency that preaches digital has to practice it.