In a Digital World, an Ad Agency Proud to Be Traditional
Early in 2016, Noreen O’Leary writing for adweek.com asked the question, “Will this be the year that marketers surprise their agencies by shifting dollars out of digital and back into more traditional media?” According to a yearly outlook survey conducted by RSW/US, the short answer is yes, and that keyword surprise should be raising some serious red flags for both agencies and their clients.
“Will this be the year that marketers surprise their agencies by shifting dollars out of digital and back into more traditional media when using marketing automation systems?”
O’Leary’s story continues… “Some 34 percent of marketers said they will increase spending on traditional media in 2016, while only 19 percent of agency respondents expect that to happen. ‘Agencies may be underestimating traditional media, while clients feel there’s not been enough seamless integration as we chased the shiny objects,’ said Mark Sneider, president of RSW/US, the Cincinnati based marketing consultancy behind the survey.”
That’s a 15point difference, a remarkable disconnect in how clients and their agencies believe advertising budgets should be spent. How did that gap grow so large? The problem is many agencies have been distracted by those “shiny objects.” Shiny digital objects, to be more precise.
Agency Ego Part of the Problem
In an attempt to position themselves as leading edge, boundary pushing millennial magnets with a trophy case full of AdFed awards (won by popular vote, mind you, some awards not even based on actual results), agencies have lost sight of the only thing that matters—spending your clients’ money wisely to deliver meaningful, measurable results.
Data isn’t insight, and that’s what this “digital first” mindset often misses.
Instead of developing research driven strategy, these agencies are busy patting themselves on the back over impressions, page views, followers, app downloads, etc., and that’s where they stop. They stop at the impressive looking trend lines in the data. But data isn’t insight, and that’s what this “digital first” mindset often misses. Consumer insight is how effective advertising wins over an audience, motivates action and drives change in consumer behavior… all the things traditional advertising does so well.
Misleading Headlines Perpetuate the Myth that ‘Traditional is Dead’
A 2015 Pew Research Center study found that 63% of Americans turn to Twitter and Facebook to get the news and follow news stories as they unfold. If you include LinkedIn for industry news, I’m definitely among this majority… and you likely are, too.
But consider how you consume news on social media. How many times do you actually click to read a story start to finish? Rarely. More often, our ever shortening attention spans bounce from one headline to the next. We’ve stopped ourselves from getting the full story.
A headline that reads “For the First Time, More than Half of Americans Will Watch Streaming TV,” may be enticing to the right audience, but may not get clicks because it gives away the whole story. Or so it would seem. Without digging in, you wouldn’t know that the stat used to craft such a compelling headline was far less meaningful (Americans will watch digital TV at least once a month… not exactly the story your brain was expecting based on the headline).
“Shiny objects” like flashy headlines in a Twitter feed might grab some attention, but that attention may be fleeting and uninspired.
For advertisers, there’s an infuriating paradox hidden in this consumer behavior. Digital first agencies argue because of that super short attention span, they must rely on the “shiny objects” to attract eyeballs and stay competitive. (In other words, get attention any way they can.) Traditional agencies, on the other hand, know that “shiny objects” like flashy headlines in a Twitter feed might grab some attention, but that attention may be fleeting and uninspired.
H2M: Proud to Be Traditional
Tom Doctoroff, author of Twitter Is Not a Strategy, explains our industry’s current challenge well. He says “today’s digital era calls for change—but not to bow to the algorithmic salvation of big data, or to the gee-whiz draw of viral video. Our mandate now is to achieve harmony between timeless brand building truths and new digital technology opportunities.”
In a previous post about trust in marketing, I wrote that “the majority of consultants and marketing groups want to help your business move forward. Some may get lost in the tactics at times, but at the end of the day, marketers want to create work that makes an impact.” I believe this holds true for agencies with a digital first mindset as well, but they’re doing their clients a disservice if they’re not achieving that harmony between traditional and digital.
“Our mandate now is to achieve harmony between timeless brand building truths and new digital technology opportunities.”
Here at H2M, we have always believed, and will continue to believe until proven otherwise, that advertising success is based on solid strategy and planning, not on tactics. We work with our clients to create advertising solutions that fit their budget, and we use our fair share of “shiny objects”… but only when the strategy calls for them.
Our clients come to us precisely because we are a traditional advertising agency. They come to us for help telling their brand’s story because they know we can. Because we don’t overpromise. We don’t blow budgets. We don’t rely on flash alone to get by. At H2M, you won’t find a 15point disconnect between what we believe is right and what our clients believe is right. What you’ll find is sound advertising principles being put into motion by a team working together towards a common goal. It’s tradition. And it works.