I saw on Ad Age where a new column went up on the old argument of who should blah-blah-blah freaking “lead” when it comes to “guiding” a brand in times like these, traditional or digital shops.
To rehash a comment I made there: Why is it always framed as an either-or deal? With the way things have changed, how can any one shop be all things to a brand anymore? Seems like it wants to be two things: A size and idea argument.
First, the problem is, everyone is stuck on the standard notion that brands need a big idea to carry them through the year: “Here’s our new ad campaign that says what we want about our brand.” As such, agencies fight to be the one that gives it to them.
However, this is becoming increasingly at odds with a client mindset that wants to use multiple agency partners. Result: Five shops want to be lead dog and say they were the ones who drove the brand with that one idea. Fueled increasingly by the “Idea can come from anywhere” mantra.
Secondly and more importantly, why is this not just a size argument? Why does it have to be digital vs. traditional? Clients go with the shop they have confidence in, based in large part on what the agency can offer in terms of not just ideas, but account management and execution.
Besides, hasn’t any traditional-digital divide morphed into a traditional-social media divide? (It’s all merging anyway.) There is no pure definition of digital because it encompasses so much, from search and Twitter to microsites and blogger outreach.)
No matter what size you are though, your shop better know how to do it all these days to meet whatever need the client has, or be at least be able to partner with someone who can.
It’s not just about what your specialty is, it’s about that client need at any given time. A lot of agencies coming up now though don’t get that. Some in the space seem to think their specific offering is the only thing a brand needs.
Too often, it’s not that digital (or small) shops can’t sell themselves or come up with that big idea (many can, many can’t), it’s just as much about those clients stuck in an old school gotta have my big agency mindset when they maybe don’t need to be.
Sure, P&G needs massive TV, so they use a shop or network of shops that can handle it. But not every brand needs that.
The reason for the post and why I bring all this up again is that Brian Morrissey wrote something in Brandweek on the new Flip video campaign that sums this up perfectly.
Actually, I’m not sure he meant it the way I read into it. The passage near the end is just a list of agencies involved in the project, but I think it’s significant because it highlights the problem with a who should lead blanket statement:
“Boutique shop Bird Design handled creative. Media Storm handled planning and buying. Cisco bypassed using AKQA, which was named its lead agency. Lipe said AKQA would still work on the brand, but it went with different partners for the needs of this campaign.”
So much for lead anything.
Brands are still the most important factor in the mix when it comes to determining what agency works on what project or account. The one shop you’d expect to run things because it was named lead (AKQA), was bypassed. Another digital shop Bird Design did the creative. Relevant too, the client itself is a fairly young brand and certainly didn't buy into the one-stop shopping concept.
The pipe dream that is one agency with lead AOR status now officially, hopefully, over.
Here endeth the lesson.