Digital Agencies at ARF re:think

The second panel of the day at ARF’s re:think conference was "The Agency of the Future" including R/GA, Avenue A|Razorfish, Nitro and Digitas.

Continuing on the one-of-these-outfits-is-not-like-the-other theme, Nick Law, Chief Creative Officer from R/GA shows up in short sleeve shirt, jeans, and swooshes in stark contrast to other panelists in standard business casual.  Interactive is the new traditional and its agency executives appear to have followed suit, so to speak.

Get it?

Followed suit?

Ok moving on, Rance Crain of Ad Age did a nice job of moderating and stirring up the pot.  He suggested an alternative title for his panel as well:  "Digital:  Just Another Silo?"  BTW, I’m guessing he’s not a big fan of subservient chicken, either.

Torrence Boone of Digitas described his company as a "full service agency" with roots in direct marketing and capabilities today in integrated and digital marketing.  Which is a good thing because I’m planning a Forrester Wave on integrated agencies later this summer.  Torrance defined a big idea as a filter on what to do or what not to do.  It’s built out of consumer insight, media context, and consumption patterns, along with a good dose of gut and intuition.

Steve Marrs of Nitro spoke about his company’s small size and global reach.  They have three main offices, in London, New York, and Shanghai (the largest).  Shanghai as largest is intriguing (unless I heard wrong).  Steve said that his agency approaches work by separating strategy from advertising – the way it used to be.  Nitro defines a big idea in part as something that drives business results.  Note to Nitro:  a good place to start would be SEO for "nitro."

Clark Kokich of Avenue A|Razorfish described his company as a "full service interactive advertising agency."  He mentioned that he’s been in the agency game for a long time and left his first stint because of a feeling that what matters to client businesses happens inside the core of their firm – untouched by agency projects.  He brought this focus back to AARF to focus on what’s "crucial to the client’s business."  Clark also mentioned that his agency’s purpose is to drive business results, because "you can’t build a brand through advertising." 

Nick Law of R/GA showed how the "Agency of the Digital Age" is helping one client – Nike – beyond advertising.  Their work on Nike+ gets deep into product as well as promotion – these being "wearable, networked computing devices."  Not much more to say, because Nick showed how R/GA is doing it.

These agencies are certainly well-positioned for the future, especially given the way consumer behavior is shifting to digital.  However, as interactive agencies compete for strategy work, they are going to run into formidable competition – traditional management consultancies.  We’ve been here before and last time the old guns won.  This time around…?