Digital Agency Brands Closing? Downturn or politics?

Beyond Interactionhttp://www.olayan.com/pub/wpp_logo_image01.jpg

Another digital agency is “integrated.”

Not uncommon in a downturn. By integrating agency units holding companies save on management costs (one MD, one CD), are able to maintain team size (two smaller teams become one bigger one) and consolidate overheads across more revenue.

But do we think Beyond is closing because none of Mediacom’s clients are asking for digital services?  Not likely.

This is integration because of the political need and justified by the feeling clients want a single integrated partner, as is commonly reported in the industry press.   The strategy makes sense.  Taking digital-trained teams and distributing them amongst the traditionally-trained ones should end up with both being stronger.  Clients can call on a single account director and get all of their questions answered and needs met.  Unfortunately that isn’t what generally happens.

The question to watch will be what happens to Sloan Broderick and the digital leadership team.  More often then not when the smaller team (the digital one) is assimilated into the bigger shop, the digital team doesn’t end up in the leadership posts.  Or only one or two become part of a management team of 7 to 10 — which doesn’t allow them to make policy changes and quickly leaves the digital leaders disillusioned at the thought of trying to fight to change the course of the supertanker.  Consider Colleen DeCourcy‘s moves through JWT (now focused primarily on RIOT, a digital-led agency), Don Scales leaving Agency.com when it was “aligned” with TBWA (now running iCrossing) and Eric Wheeler at Ogilvy (now running 33across, a digital business).

For the team trying to deliver the work the situation is even worse.  Being integrated often means being surrounded by people that don’t have the same passion you do for digital marketing — and think the term geek has negative not positive connotations.  And this in an industry that changes so quickly you can’t keep up alone.  You need your digital colleagues.

It also frequently means you are reporting to someone that doesn’t understand the issues of trafficking a complex rich media campaign and can’t field an issue that is escalated.

The classic case is the manager saying, “I don’t see what you are so concerned the client wants 3 extra variants on the creative.” When the digital account person knows that with 5 markets and 5 typical online ad layouts plus 5 or so resizes for each, the boss has just agreed to 375 new ad units — all that need to be optimised, tagged, uploaded and trafficked…for tomorrow.

Or perhaps a more fundemental issue like proposing the need for a media plan template change to accommodte behavioural targeting, in-campaign optimisation or templated creative.  On the creative agency side consider our isolated account manager being caught by the big agency creative director (with all the ego this position requires) trying to break up the creative black box asking the solutions be developed collaboratively rather then in isolation by the art director-copy writer  teams.

In the Revolution article linked to above, Kevin Murphy, joint-MD of Zed Media, comments that

It’s clear that many traditional agencies still have some catching up to
do, but they’re doing it fast. Digital specialists will no doubt be
looking at selling up while they still have some real value, or
concentrate on forming close strategic partnerships with larger agency
networks.

I’ve got a slightly different opinion.  Being part of an integrated group has huge benefits, but being an “integrated” team is a disaster.  And I think the next year will prove it when I update the headcount figures.

WPP Moves Beyond, Beyond: Digital Brand Will Cease To Interact

by Joe Mandese1 hour ago

As part of a reorganization that will more seamlessly integrate its traditional and digital media services brands, WPP’s MediaCom Worldwide unit next month will drop its Beyond Interaction brand, and will consolidate all its digital operations under the MediaCom Interaction name, Online Media Daily has learned. The move marks an end to one of Madison Avenue’s seminal digital media brands, and one which WPP acquired in 2005 as part of its acquisition of then Beyond parent Grey Advertising.

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.san&s=98769&Nid=51393&p=929055

 

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