Do You Have A Traditional Agency or Just Traditional Expectations?

“Traditional agencies are dead.  Blah, blah, blah…”  Yeah, I get it.  But just like yesterday’s tired cliche of the misinformed: “Big Agencies are dead”, I don’t buy this notion either, because upon review, I can’t name a single ‘traditional’ agency.  These days, everyone plays in the digital space, everyone has some experience with online or event or email platforms.  So anyone who hires organizations to develop ideas for them shouldn’t be surprised when those organizations think beyond TV, radio and print.tradition1

And yet that attitude persists.  Clients have been so deeply schooled in the need for specialists that the concept that anyone might imagine outside their own particular box seems remarkable, even revolutionary.

This makes no sense.  Sure, we often engage specialty partners at our agency, and I’m usually very glad for their expertise and experience.  But as someone who dreams things up for a living, I have a problem with “agencies” that restrict themselves to tightly-defined boundaries like “digital” or “multi-cultural.”  At one time in our industry history, they were definitely necessary to drive change, but these days, convergence renders these sorts of agency delineations as increasingly dated.  A digital production house?  Sure, but a digital agency?  Why would a client want to hire a craftsman with just one wrench in their toolbox?  The leading digital agencies continue to staff up with traditionally-trained creatives to meet clients’ needs for TV and other ‘traditional’ media.  Today, any organization that delivers ideas can’t legitimately claim to think solely in one channel.   If so, then they limit their creativity to specific formats that serve their specialty instead of their brands.  

The conceit that only a viral agency can make viral videos is patently absurd: our “Ballgirl” film for Gatorade was last Summer’s biggest viral hit.  The conceit that content must come from a separate agency makes no sense: we created a seven episode online series that followed the US Soccer Women’s team on their successful quest for the Gold last year.  We developed games for clients big and small, we built video and flash based rich media banners, Facebook apps, MySpace programs, and Super Bowl events.  When we turn for production help from outside vendors, they are the same vendors outsourced by specialist firms.

A bubbling human imagination obeys no borders or limitations as it dreams up new possibilities.  If there still are any “traditional” agencies in America, they face imminent extinction.

That said, every evolving agency dealing with convergence and working to establish their reputation in new areas has one looming responsibility: selling themselves.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79