Why are we still talking about Digital Agencies?

As we all wrestle with ways to keep our industry and our clients brands relevant for the next 20 years – Digital has become firmly at the centre of all marketing conversations and it can no longer be seen as a separate space.

Yes we’re seeing dramatic spend being shifted towards digitally enabled content, however it’s rarely relevant as a standalone delivery. Put in a slightly different context, we believe that any digital solution is more powerful when integrated and considered into a TTL context – or in the full context of every medium that connects Consumers with brands.

For this reason we believe that today’s era of marketing marks the beginning of the end for digital agencies and, relatively soon, it may be no more relevant to have a digital agency than it would have been, fifteen years ago, to have had a radio or print agency.

Digital is such a layered and pervasive conversation now. It’s like oxygen, it’s what we breathe every day and in every marketing opportunity that we approach. Surely it must be a part of what we do and not, in any way, apart from it.

How else can we create brand experiences that are weaved across the full spectrum of media, and navigate the reality of how the modern consumer interacts with brands and technology on a daily basis?

Consumers don’t see advertising in silos and we need to constantly restructure ourselves and our client relationships to this shifting reality. Transmedia content is certainly increasingly the type of creative content which Consumers are opting to consume and then choosing to pass on to others. Not just in a digital context of ‘passing on’ but in the good old fashioned real world too!

Beyond the buzzwords, true integration is a product of Ogilvy’s long-standing journey of evolving these delivery ambitions, which is why we were proud to be part of this market sea change – when earlier this year – Ogilvy SA became the first Through-The-Line agency to win Digital Agency Of The Year at the IAB Bookmarks awards.

How we’ve achieved our own transformation towards the future – is reflected in our own agency structure – and is undeniably a bit of ‘Back to the Future’.
For the past decade we, along with many large agencies, have been building standalone units, often with sub-branded names. By example three years ago, Ogilvy merged the country’s leading digital agency Gloo, to produce Gloo@Ogilvy. But now that output, with a few specific exceptions, is simply part of what Ogilvy does. We operate as a single P&L and have pushed aside all siloes of operation and thinking inside our organisation. Our ambition is to help clients build brands that matter in the lives of consumer – in the long term, at every point of contact along the customer journey and in the very immediate term in the culture of now.

This means that our brand teams receive a single brief – and are expected to consider all media in their response. Budget is then shifted between media accordingly, without fear of damaging siloed P&Ls. In this context it’s harder and harder to see the role of a pure play digital agency. Specialised digital skills are, of course, still valued and required for some deeper digital contexts. But in our view, even they should rarely be allowed to live in a silo. Digital creativity has both conceptual and technical elements to it which flourish best when supported in a broader context.

So at Ogilvy we’re moving from a house of brands to a branded house. It reflects the core role of digital work in any marketing mix. It also offers brands large financial economies of scale and it’s increasingly what major clients are seeking – because it’s simpler to navigate. In todays context we need to be marketing at the speed of culture and not relying on annual campaign plans. And this approach allows us to do just that. Most importantly we’ve proven that the work this structure creates, gets better results in terms of strengthening genuine brand connection with Consumers.

Earlier this year Ogilvy SA bought home South Africa’s first gold lion at the Cannes Advertising festival for digital film. With over 65,000 entries from over 55 countries worldwide – this is yet another sign that South Africa has the ability to produce digitally biased work of a global quality. And as budgets migrate further towards digital media – we should see more work from SA agencies shining at these types of occasions – as further proof that our industry is able to respond to the ‘digital context’ alongside the best.

Pete Case, CCO Of Ogilvy South Africa.