@ EconAds: Agency 2.0: The Future Of The Agency; Learning Scale While Staying Creative


After plenty of talk about ad networks and digital incumbents, the day’s discussion at EconAds turned to the traditional agencies, and their role in the in the digital landscape.

Is the recession hitting digital? paidContent.org advertising correspondent David Kaplan kicked off the discussion with the economy question. Are we in a recession, and if so, how is it effecting the digital side of the ops? Greg Smith, COO, [email protected] North America: “We’re seeing hesitancy more than anything else… people are looking for more and more accountability which favors digital.” Penry Price, VP, Ad Sales, North America, Google: “We still see healthy growth in the search side… because we’re putting some measures of accountability in there, we’re seeing good test cases there as well.”

The Frenemy Issue: WPP boss Martin Sorrell has gotten a lot of attention for his characterization of Google (NSDQ: GOOG) as a “frenemy”. Price: Too much made of the Frenemy issues. Agencies will grow and get stronger and are in a position to analyze and aggregate data.

Lack of Creativity?: The reported dearth in creativity is particularly challenging to the agencies, given that historically, this has been their bread and butter. Smith: “What lies beyond advertising?… Whenever I want to throw out a challenge to my people I say, ‘you’ve got $10 million to spend, but you can’t do ads’.” Non-ad opportunities include: providing information and entertainment, or do advocacy of some sort.. There are various things that can expand the medium of the brand. “Too often we default to ‘let me tell you about the product’ as opposed to demonstrating. Paula Drum, VP Marketing, Digital Solutions Group, H&R BLock, came from the brand perspective, discussing the way the company has used social and digital media to promote itself. The company used blogs, for example, to get out the word about the tax rebate. She added that because the digital world is so metric heavy, the social media world is somewhat hobbled, because it’s more about brand building (more vague, basically).

Deals: Smith: “One thing that we’ve learned is don’t just go out and buy it and then look to integrate it.” First you have to figure out what you need. Expanding overseas? “Ideas can come from anywhere… WPP is very smart because they take positions in a lot of companies without acquiring them outright.”

Time/Spend gap: Drum: “We have individual silos… we absolutely need to go where our customers are.” The digital side needs to go through digital. The brick and mortar goes through word of mouth and other media.

Ad networks: Adam Shlachter, Group Director, MEC Interaction: Ad networks are interesting because they allow us to do different things for our clients. Whether it’s adding scale or better targeting… when we do bigger, flashier, sponsorship oriented things, they might have more of an impact.” The basic gist: For certain campaigns they make a lot of sense, and for others they don’t.

Monetizing Video: Price: In terms of monetizing YouTube, they’re still in a learning phase. As with other Google efforts, they’re working with third parties to promote content and share revenue. Multiple ways: homepage takeovers, banner, display. Rafat: Can you categorically say you will never use pre-roll? Price: Won’t say never, but unless customers want something different, it’s unlikely. “It would preclude us from certain opportunities (with various agencies, etc.)…” But it’s not interested in a short-sighted move. “From a content integration strategy, it has to feel authentic.”

Is search overrated: “We say to our clients that search should be your first dollar spent (note: at this point Google’s Price applauded, but then Smith clarified that what he really meant was organic search). The idea that search marketing could be overrated is “ridiculous.”

Social media: When asked by an audience member where social media figures into things, Smith noted that doing a social media campaign is about a lot more than just spending money. It takes real effort. Wanna set up your own office in Second Life? You actually have to have someone manning it, as Drum pointed out. It takes real effort, so in a sense, regular digital advertising and TV advertising are both seen as “lazy” ad media.

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