I’ve been wanting to blog about changes in the agency world for awhile, and R/GA’s recent capture of AdWeek’s coveted 2008 Digital Agency of the Year award seems like the perfect chance. Congratulations, R/GA.
R/GA, whose marquee clients include a long-term relationship with Nike, for whom it not only created memorable advertising but also helped build an industry-leading platform for digital marketing, has broken the agency mold by putting technology at the core of what they do. (Of course, they’re not the only ones, that’s what digital agencies do.)
“There’s a couple different directions agencies will have to take,” says [R/GA founder and CEO Bob] Greenberg. “There’s a difference between us and someone like Crispin Porter + Bogusky. We’ve taken the direction of building brand platforms rather than viral stunts or one-off things.”
Speaking of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, another award-winning agency of iconic status with a different approach to technology, they recently scored a rare hat trick, winning 2008 (not-just-digital) Agency of the Year awards from Creativity, AdWeek, and AdAge. This is very impressive considering the somewhat dubious response its highly-touted (and very expensive) Microsoft campaign, starring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates, drew last year. (I personally felt duped by it, having first attempted to take it seriously before it was abruptly curtailed in favor of “I’m a PC,” rarely to be mentioned again.)
CP+B’s “viral stunts” date back to the seminal viral campaign, “Subservient Chicken” for Burger King. They are, to my mind, the heirs of the “Mad Men” era of advertising during which the “big idea” reigned supreme, and creative directors called the shots (and were compensated on par with Wall Street executives).
Volkswagen advertising from Crispin Porter + Bogusky
How times have changed. CP+B’s campaign for Volkswagen could be a metaphor for what’s happening in advertising. Today’s agencies need more than a trophy case full of awards: they need to elevate quants and techs to equal status with creatives, and fundamentally change their approach by moving digital to the center of the picture, as R/GA and Sapient and AvenueA/Razorfish have done.
To refine this generic observation, Gartner last quarter surveyed a number of agencies and brand marketers in the U.S. and UK on a variety of topics from spending priorities to accountability. The results revealed some substantial areas of misalignment between agencies and their clients. The results will be published shortly on gartner.com (subscription required).
The growing importance of technology in advertising has not been lost on the agency world. WPP, for example, now (arguably) the world’s largest agency holding company, has been on something of an technology acquisition spree, having purchased or invested in numerous digital marketing companies over the past two years (24/7 Real Media, Spot Runner, TNS, VideoEgg, Visible Technologies, Schematic, Blast Radius, JumpTap, and most recently, Omniture). But acquiring skills is just part of the problem…integrating them into the business and culture is the bigger challenge.