Monday, February 11, 2008

Agencies react to Forrester report

Agencies aren't staying ahead of the digital curve, and no agency is "getting it right," according to Forrester Research. Here's what the agencies have to say in response.
A new report (subscription required) from Forrester Research offers a dire assessment of the advertising industry, saying agencies are "in a world of hurt."

"I can't say there's an agency now that's the agency of the future," said Peter Kim, a Forrester Research analyst and co-author of the report.

But that charge -- one that has been made at countless industry gatherings -- doesn't carry much weight for Kendall Allen, managing director at Incognito Digital.

"There's definitely an evolution at play in the industry," Allen said. "We're a boutique, but we're a full-service digital boutique, which means that what we do is a lot more fluid than things once were for traditional shops."

That fluidity highlights the rough state of affairs outlined in the Forrester report, which points to changing user behavior as a key reason why many agencies are being left out of the conversation.

"I don't think agencies are going away," Kim said. "They're going to be the ones that help marketers to [interact with] communities of mutual interest."

But the recent Super Bowl experience may highlight just how far agencies need to go, according to Mark Silva, principal and founder of Real Branding.

"Those of us in digital have a long way to go to innovate," Silva says. "All you have to do is look at the Super Bowl to see what a missed opportunity there was. At best, we're doing a 'matching luggage' approach to integration."

According to Silva, the traditional agencies that are likely to get it right when it comes to digital are those that bring in outside specialists. But ultimately, Silva says there won't be a moment of "getting it right" until digital and traditional become equal partners.

For Silva, that makes Publicis an agency to watch because CEO Maurice Levy has made clear his intention to make the company's Digitas acquisition the centerpiece of its new model.

But changing a massive company like Publicis will take time. And restructuring the agency to focus on community-driven messaging, as the report suggests, may be a skill in short supply -- at least on the traditional side.

In the interim, smaller, more nimble shops focused solely on digital will fill the void, according to Questus partner Joseph Dumont.

"Brands need to understand that the only digital shops that they should talk to are the ones with a near-myopic focus on digital, because only these shops will have the right relationships with the gatekeepers to these communities, or with the communities themselves," Dumont said.

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