Digital vs. traditional - combining the best of both agencies

With marketing budgets remaining stretched for 2011, many companies are grappling with the challenge of how best to allocate their marketing spend. There is a growing and highly compelling move towards digital media and digital agencies but, with only 2% of marketing spend being allocated to these channels, is digital really the way to go? Also, how does digital marketing differ from the traditional agency route? Lara Bryant, Chief Strategist at NATIVE, the largest fully-integrated agency in the country, believes that the true value of a digital agency lies in their method of conceptualising and implementing a marketing strategy.
"The initial approach to researching insights, determining objectives and context will be similar with both integrated and traditional agencies, and both entities usually create a communications plan, but that is where the similarity stops," says Bryant. A traditional agency starts with creating a set of brand or product messages and then purchases media placements to broadcast these.

Digital implementation, in contrast, focuses on creating engagement interaction with consumers or clients. "The agency needs to understand the new channels for engaging with a target market. Integrated agencies look at social networks, at how people are using their cellular telephones, at issues like two-way communication with a client, and issues of risk on platforms as varied as internet complaint sites, mobile channels like MXit, and the increasingly ubiquitous Facebook. You need to understand the impact of things like the iPad and other tablet interfaces, on one hand, and the growth of internet penetration into communities that were previously denied such access."

"We believe the best campaigns are those that are fully integrated and have a strong digital component at their core. One needs to find a way for the messages you send out as a brand to offer an opportunity for engagement in your target. Modern marketing demands a move away from the 'push communication' that is typical of the traditional space, into something where people can participate in a dialogue or, better still, can form a community around."

Bryant says 2010 campaigns like the Nike - Write the Future campaign is a very good example of the increasing use of "platform thinking". He believes contemporary marketing success will be achieved where people are actually gaining value out of a campaign and voluntarily choosing to stay involved with the brand, rather than just being fed advertising slogans on television or radio, or in print.

"At the end of the day it is critical for marketers to understand that truly integrated campaigns need to involve digital from the initial conception phase. You can't bolt on an interactive element, or try to create a community, after the fact. You need to have campaigns that can be executed in the digital space, and that means combining digital and traditional from the start," Bryant says. Integrated thinking of this nature also means that brands can derive greater benefits from their campaigns. Greater interaction and engagement in the digital space ultimately results in fewer people coming into call centres, provides opportunities to timeously pick up any problems that might exist with a product, service or brand and a good chance of being enabled to avoid potential crises later on. Integrated digital campaigns also offer brands and marketers the chance to talk to people via means of earned media, rather than having to pay for placement of the message.

The measurement aspect of both traditional and online campaigns also remains key. Bryant says, "We know we can measure things very effectively inside the digital space, however, measurement is only as good as the analysis that accompanies it. Going one step further, measurement and analysis are only as good as whatever actions you perform after you've gathered your insights. To truly track marketing spend and return on investment across different customer touchpoints, you have to be crystal clear about the objectives of the campaign at the beginning. This allows for tweaking and refinement during a campaign, and allows brand managers and marketing directors to truly understand how well the agency has delivered on those - and how well their own businesses have delivered against customer expectations."

Bryant believes that 2011 will definitely be the year that sees an increase in integration and consolidation - a merging between the traditional and digital landscape. Measurability and relevance will be two key driving factors. "We need to go back to basics. Agencies need to outline their objectives, prove how they measured them, and then show how their strategies achieved those objectives. But it's a hat that both client and agency need to wear. Clients need to be clear on their objectives; agencies need to work out how they will achieve those results and then metrics need to be agreed upon to prove that.

"It's about the interaction. In South Africa, agencies are generally great on creative, execution, media planning and delivery to market. Where things often fall down is working out how, on the limited budgets available, we're going to achieve a very defined objective; how that is going to be measured, and then, most importantly for clients, how that information can best be fed back to make the next campaign even more effective," concludes Bryant.


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14 Jul 2011 11:53