It’s been an interesting couple of weeks on the digital/traditional front. For example: two articles, both from agency principals, with their takes on traditional versus digital shops and the work they do, and to some extent, taking to task the digital agencies for viewing traditional firms as anachronisms.
And as I read the above mentioned posts, I started thinking about several conversations I’ve had with principals at digital agencies lately, asking me how this changing landscape has altered our new business services. So I’ll combine both topics into one post and say:
1) I really didn’t grasp the depth of animosity in some cases between digital and traditional shops, and it seems the big picture is getting lost (sometimes) amidst what’s essentially become a case of “olds vs. the kids.”
2) Our business, at its core, hasn’t changed (although the channels we use have evolved), in the sense that it’s still about the conversation, building a relationship and presenting value, rather than mindless fishing (prospecting.)
Let’s kick off with Derek Walker’s post on Small Agency Diary last week, Ad Industry Dinosaurs’ Aren’t Extinct; We’re Adapting. Now, I like this post for its tenacity and honesty (although I think the dinosaur analogy gets a bit over the top by the end) but it also shows the depth of animosity, if that’s the right word, that some traditional shops feel toward digital shops. Per the article:
You misjudge how deep our talents and abilities run. You’re too busy laughing and ridiculing us. But understand — please take a moment to grasp — that for my fellow dinosaurs and myself this digital age is no killer asteroid. It is like a new hunting ground has opened up. And the prey is so unaware of how dangerous we are. They don’t even run away anymore.
Wow, okay. And Derek mentions “laughing” twice more at the end of the piece as well. Maybe we’re not supposed to take that literally, that shops like Derek’s are actually being laughed at by digital shops, or maybe so? Either way, the whole article is a strong statement, and I would be interested to hear in comments if this is really how it is in the trenches. We know from working with and talking to agencies every day that there’s some of this, no doubt, but this deep? I’m interested to hear.
The second is Bob Hoffman’s Gravity and the Web article in Adweek last week. This excerpt will give you the flavor:
Can anyone name even five serious non-native, consumer-facing brands that have been built primarily by Web advertising? Is there a major brand of coffee, butter, beer, bread, chicken, gasoline, soda, peanut butter, dog food, milk, tires, potato chips, life insurance, lawn mowers, toothbrushes—you get the point—that has been built primarily by Web advertising? I’m a little slow, but frankly, I can’t even think of one.
1. Traditional is not going away.
2. Digital is here to stay.
3. How traditional and digital both work is forever evolving. They now feed off and lean on one another and it’s THAT kind of work and relationship the best creatives want to sink their teeth into.
What’s muddying up the picture, in my opinion, is an implied, sometimes blunt, assertion of ageism in some of these arguments. Not necessarily the two posts I mentioned, (although certainly in many of the comments afterwards) but big-picture, and that’s unhelpful.
Perhaps it’s implicit in some of these arguments, as inevitably age will play into both sides from an experience perspective, but ultimately it’s not going to get anyone anywhere. Both sides will continue to evolve and as another comment points out, anyone over 30 in this “argument” is really a dinosaur anyway . (Ouch, I’ll be 40 this year.)
And finally, as to how RSW/US’s business has changed in relation to all this, again, at its core it hasn’t. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, the channels continue to evolve, but we would be foolish to abandon, say, direct mail as a tool, for example and an actual conversation, a quality conversation, is still the Holy Grail. Social and digital play a part as well-they’re just further tools in the toolbox.