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Facilitating the process as ad agencies go digital

As insane as it sounds there are industries in today’s modern world that still haven’t cottoned onto digital communication and modes of business. The first that springs to mind is insurance, which is struggling to shrug off its staid modus operandi. Print media has also been reluctant to abandon tried and trusted avenues in favour of more technologically advanced systems. This is not surprising given that many people consider digital to print’s executioner. Then we have advertising, which likes to think of itself as on the cutting edge but is really like most of the baby boomer generation – trying hard and failing miserably to adapt to a life lived online.

Granted, that statement could be construed as a gross generalisation, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain a ring of truth.

When you think of what an advertising agency does the chances are that you think in terms of radio, print and TV ads. You probably envision giant billboards and possibly slogans and pictures slapped on the sides of buses. When you stop to think about online advertising you probably think of online marketing specialists; those companies that involve themselves in all things SEO, SEM and social media related.

The tide is turning, however, and traditional ad agencies are braving murky digital waters. The way is fraught with difficulties, which is neatly summed up by advertising guru Brad Jakeman: “The irony is that while there have never been more ways to reach consumers, it’s never been harder to connect with consumers.” But there are things that ad agencies can do to ease the process.

  • It all starts with a change of attitude.

As many people have learned (often the hard way) operating online requires that they relinquish control. For ad agencies this means that they can expect clients to be more exacting, more demanding and more aware of what they want their advertising to achieve. They will want to make more changes and tweaks and they will want these to be implemented immediately. They will want in-depth reports of what works and what doesn’t, as well explanations as to why a particular strategy did or didn’t work and a comprehensive plan that addresses the shortcomings.

To put it more succinctly, they will want to be more involved. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a good idea to set realistic expectations and outline the boundaries of your working relationship. This is so that you don’t spend the bulk of your time splitting hairs with your client, but can instead get on with your job.

  • Roll with the punches.

You need to be flexible and robust enough to accept when something isn’t working and make changes on the fly. That’s not to say you should make changes willy-nilly. That’s like using staples to staunch a slit throat. Have some practical, well-researched options ready in case your first plan doesn’t work.

Operating online is about making mistakes and learning from them. It’s also about measuring, analysing and detecting. Monitor your online advertising efforts, analyse their impact (or lack thereof) and determine the reasons behind successes and failures.

  • A problem shared is a problem halved.

Don’t keep all your departments separate. Working online is all about collaboration. Brain storm, work as a team and definitely adopt the carrot rather than the stick approach. Keep channels of communication open and encourage your specialists to bounce ideas of each other; you might be surprised at what your copywriter, designer and IT guy can achieve when they’re not restricted to their cubicles.

  • If you want the project managed, hire a project manager.

Collaboration and team work is all good and well but it counts for nothing if you don’t have someone in charge to keep everything in order and on schedule. What applies for traditional avenues works just as well in digital advertising.

  • Old school and new school aren’t mutually exclusive.

Don’t compartmentalise your traditional and digital advertising endeavours. The two should form part of an holistic whole. They complement and supplement each other so don’t separate them as if they were two competing entities.

  • Don’t underestimate the power of SEO.

Digital advertising agencies need to have at least a passing knowledge of SEO and online marketing technicalities. Advertising in any form won’t achieve much if it remains hidden or complicates the user’s experience.

What other tips do you have for ad agencies crossing the great divide?

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