I had the opportunity to sit down with our (now former) interactive director, Sudhir Subbaiah, and chat a little about the key differences between digital and traditional agencies and the shift that’s taking place in the marketing world. Needless to say, Sudhir tended to lean toward the digital side of things. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.
G6: Many people do not know the differences between a digital agency and a traditional agency. Can you briefly explain the biggest differences?
Sudhir: A traditional marketing agency provides services like marketing, branding, and advertising utilizing traditional media like TV, radio, billboards, newspapers, magazines, and other print media. Digital agencies, on the other hand, offer online marketing services using interactive media like websites, ecommerce, search, social, mobile email, and other online technologies.
G6: What are the advantages/disadvantages of a digital agency as opposed to its traditional counterparts?
Sudhir: Digital is cheaper, generally more flexible, and it accommodates budgets of various sizes. With digital you can precisely target your chosen audience, tailoring your messaging to fit accordingly. Some of the disadvantages are lower barriers to entry that make it an increasingly competitive space. Also the immediate visibility and nature of how information spreads fast across the web forces companies to maintain complete accountability — that’s why precise data and metrics are also very crucial. Detailed tracking provides insight and guidance in making business decisions to calculate a return on investment. Finally, digital does require technical competency and skills but with constant improvements in technology, user interfaces, and usability, many self-serve applications are relatively easy to set up and manage.
Traditional media gives you the ability to reach the masses, but it’s not very targeted and requires a much larger budget, so it is limited to fewer players. There is little-to-no interactivity and it relies heavily on word of mouth to spread.
G6: Is it fair to say that the line between digital and traditional agencies has gotten more blurred due to the evolution of social media and the advancement of web 2.0?
Sudhir: Most traditional agencies are expanding their digital capabilities just to keep up, but that doesn’t mean that digital agencies are not willing to take a stab at what was, until a few years ago, traditional territory (like video and radio). Companies like Google are commoditizing video, radio, and even print advertising, making it accessible to all. Online, social media is taking the concepts of word of mouth, networking, sharing, and recommending, and literally blowing them to never-before-seen heights. The fact that a lot of traditional features are being adapted and magnified online is evidence that the lines between digital and traditional agencies are definitely blurring.
G6: If so, where do you see the agency landscape in 5-10 years? Do you think all agencies will have more of a digital feel?
Sudhir: Many companies still prefer traditional agencies for key services like strategy, storytelling, and branding. However, the agencies still require digital services to execute these strategies online. Typically clients prefer to deal with a single agency that can do both, so in order to accomplish this, traditional agencies will either outsource their digital requirements or merge/acquire digital expertise. Such mergers are likely to continue for several years, and judging from the revolution in social media, mobile devices, and video, I would go as far as to say that the resulting breed of companies will be solely digital.
G6: When it comes to digital marketing what are some the key elements needed to gain success for a client?
Sudhir: You have to understand the client’s business/competitive environment and have clearly defined goals, which you can then use to create a robust strategy. The strategic plan should offer the freedom to take risks, try new techniques, and embrace cutting-edge tools. It should also allow for flexibility so you can quickly change direction if necessary.
G6: What’s the coolest thing about working at a digital agency?
Sudhir: Cutting-edge tools and new and exciting technologies.