The Digital Gamble
With all eyes this week on nimble digital production agencies and their potential for acquisition, it’s incredible to think that not so long ago digital and web development was purely the domain of internal agency teams and outsourced web companies.
It’s no surprise Dutch digital agency Media Monks is being battled over by WPP and Sir Martin Sorrell’s newly formed S4C, as reported earlier in the week by Laura Swinton on LBB Online. Yet as fast as we dive collectively headlong into the future of AI, AR and VR, it’s fair to say that web isn’t disappearing any time soon and for this reason alone the agency model should play closer attention to web business online.
Years of rapid custom development and unbridled construction of templated sites across any number of technologies (current and decayed, by almost every agency) has left the industry in a state of exactly that, digital fragmentation.
Boring and incredibly unsexy, sure! Yet the inefficiencies, unnecessary cost and real time lag this fragmentation causes production companies, advertising agencies and ultimately brand clients in-market aspirations, are significant.
To claim the current digital offerings are in any way nimble is to admit that by comparison agencies are pivoting at a truly glacial pace.
One view is that it’s the role of digital agencies to be the creative speedboat scything through a flotilla of bloated casinos ships aboard, which big brand clients are gambling on their digital technology being relevant and manageable in the future. With many mainstay technologies creeping toward the end of their legitimate lifespan it’s incredible that they are still used as a base for big brand delivery online. The industry surely needs to start focusing on the future of digital delivery and how to harness new-tech capability and legitimately make a dollar out of it. In the case of the casino ships, even the house is rarely winning as few agencies have worked out how to make margins treating web design not as a profit centre, but as table stakes for the rest of the digital clients business.
In the same way that it’s difficult to make a dollar out of building a floating casino from scratch, without a plan the same is true of digital projects. Fragmentation isn’t helping individual agencies and it’s certainly not helping the industry as a whole.
Fragmentation - an ugly sounding word that continues to leave a bitter taste in the mouth of every digital project manager and C-level agency exec - has been the cause of budget blowouts, inefficient studio teams and account management frustration for decades. It’s an unnecessary scourge that needs to be stamped out or more and more digital projects will be handled by clients directly. As a creative industry with connection to digital clients, it’s beholding on agencies to gain a competitive and platform unification provides exactly that sea change for every agency.
The times they are a changing, Sir Martin Sorrell not only knows it, he’s the one driving the disruption and with decades of experience in changing markets, you’d have to say he’s unlikely to be proven wrong. Keep a weather eye on the digital agency roulette wheel to see what gems S4C acquire and while you’re at it, take a look at the state of your own digital landscape. A little housekeeping and you may turn over some gems of your own.
Graeme Blake is CEO of Blutui