10 Reasons Why Digital is Better Than Advertising – Number 1

1 - You don't have to do advertising

Digital agencies sometimes do advertising. But only a few of them call themselves ‘digital advertising agencies’. This means that we’re given permission to do lots of other things. If you work in advertising you are typically expected to do advertising. Clients come to you for advertising. They brief you to do advertising. And they expect advertising in return. The term advertising is loaded with baggage, heavy baggage that’s hard to get rid of.

The ad industry has been broken up and broken down so that direct response, in-store, brand identity and all those things are mostly handled by different people. ‘Digital advertising’ has historically been treated in the same way – it’s something that another bunch of people do.

We can see this changing all around us, as a new sort of re-integration is happening, a lot of it seemingly driven by the upsurge in digital focus and spending.

Advertising agencies are good at advertising, it’s what they do. Much better than most digital agencies and most digital advertising agencies too (if such a thing really exists). Arguably the skills you need to create digital advertising can easily be bought and seamlessly incorporated into ad agency process. Either by bringing the skills in-house or using digital production shops.

In this way the people and processes that produce big smart communications ideas can take over and squirt out great integrated / digital campaigns – just look at Crispin Porter – the no 1. ‘Digital Agency’ at Cannes last year. But of course, Cannes is all about advertising.

Personally I’m all too happy for Ad Agencies to get stuck in doing more advertising using more different kinds of channels. I’m just not convinced that the skills for producing great advertising are the same as the skills needed to do the kind of digital stuff that gets me excited.

So what am I talking about?

I think it’s my inner-inventor that loves the digital space. It’s not just about creating content, it’s about designing and building the platform that the content exists on too. As a crude example the opportunities afforded to us are like being able to invent how a TV works at the same time as shooting a film. Only the devices that are connected to the web are infinitely more powerful and more adaptable than a TV. Personally I think this mindset is quite different from a traditional communications mindset. Something we see all the time when we’re interviewing people.

And I’m not saying that advertising agencies haven’t done brilliant non-advertising things too, because of course they have, lots of them.

Number 2 coming soon…

14 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why Digital is Better Than Advertising – Number 1”

  1. Pingback: IF!
  2. what is the argument then?

    because art is better than advertising.

    films are better than advertising.

    music is better than advertising

    making fun digital stuff is better than advertising.

    sex is better with advertising.

    But if you are being paid by a client to fulfill an objective then it is advertising. Whatever format it comes in.

    And if that is the brief you are right ATL agencies do harbour the skills to do this better. And why they dominant both meetings and budgets.

    Digital agencies are mostly seen by traditional agencies as design agenices, which when put into a advertising context means that you design the ideas that the big ATL agency have.

    which is shit. and why a lot of digital people dont like ATL agencies even though they have never worked in one.

    but as you point out there are many things a digital agency can do that isnt
    seen as advertising. i.e all the stuff that is cool and useful.

    these are almost out of the advertising field of vision, just as the agency that came up with the apple advertising didnt design the stores, but the people who did probably didnt see themselves as madison avenue ad execs but as designers and architects.

    making useful stuff and distributing it, almost like digital procuct design can be the best advertising vehicle of all. e.g google.

    so does this mean the question should be ‘why design is better than advertising’

  3. Hi Dave

    > But if you are being paid by a client to fulfill an objective then it is advertising. Whatever format it comes in.

    That’s the bit i just don’t think is true. And I think you’re right when you point out that clients DO pay people to fulfil objectives through design. And I believe that digital is a very specialised descipline within design.

    I reckon that design is much closer to what I normally do than advertising. Although I suspect for you guys it’s maybe the other way around?

    Is that how you’d like to be seen?

  4. I think I’d prefer to just do advertising. At its core, this is coming with ideas which make consumers dig existing brands/products, and communicating these ideas though media somehow.

    If you want to play a game of not being an ad agency, you could end up as trying to create business models, being a general comms agency, or being generally PR-esque, like cake, naked, or anomalyNYC. All of these things are great, and exciting, but I feel they lose a bit of focus and you could spend your life arguing through client departments (NPD, business strategy, as well as the normal marketing/ad ones) trying working out what exactly you do rather than just making neat stuff. Totally see where you’re coming from though.

    Anthony Goh
    digital interactive advertising brand consumer account planner,
    consumer-brand interaction digital advertising planning department,
    glue London digital advertising agency
    London, England, UK

  5. Hello Iain.

    I get you.

    I think you are right, me and Anthony are advertising and you are design, so get your mucky design paws off that orange advertising account!

    there has always been loads of crossover – just look at Pentagram doing ads in the 70/80’s yet they were a design agency, and on the other side of the coin places like CDP who were the classic ad agency making some of the best TV ads ever.

    I agree with Anthony in the fact that those that specialise tend to make the best work, its just that the media canvas is even larger now and more money tied to it so alot of Traditional agencies are muscling in.

    Which could leave agencies like mine in a difficult position as we arent a design agency that can do the interesting stuff Poke does or a creative production house like the barbarian group that will take ATL work and white label their digital stuff.

    Then we have the interesting thing of Glue pitching for traditional part of Eurostar, and we do the press and poster of one of our clients.

    but to answer your question, yes we like to be seen as purely advertising.

  6. Hi Dave, Ian and Anthony.

    I used to work in Advertising, now work in Digital, but as Producer/Account Director.

    I think this argument also comes down to understanding the difference between brand building and campaign creative.

    The orange brand has had the benefit of some fantastic core strategy work which allows creative teams – whether it be in ATL, Digital or any other medium – the opportunity to do their best work. When the client knows who they are, it makes the job of the creative agency much easier. I think it’s easy to attribute too much credit to the creative’s contribution to a campaign, when without the foundation of a clear and focussed brand and campaign brief, good execution becomes all style and no substance.

    I think the best brands are still built by the big traditional agencies because they have the experience and talent, specifically in brand strategy. Of course you get good campaigns from many agencies, be they ATL 30 second or Digital specialists, because they leverage their creative talent and understanding of the medium.

    So, what I’m trying to say is that I’d love to have an ex BBH Planner in house but we can’t afford one just yet!

    For example

  7. Obviously to say that press advertising is not in decline would be ludicrous. Digital is starting to take over. However, I always tell our clients to be cautious over online advertising. Websites may have 1000’s of visitors a day – but who are these visitors? Is it your target audience or just spam! Be careful and take the advice of your advertising agency

  8. I take the view that online ads are still experimental. But with coming shifts in popuplation demographics, the time for experimenting will be over.

  9. I think one of the issues that ATL agencies face is that they still view “Digital” as a separate channel to everything else that they do.

    True it has specialists, and requires a lot of technological know-how to implement, but many ATL agencies are missing the trick that “Digital” is not a limited channel like, say TV, press and DM. It’s an entirely new version of the world.

    It has its own DM (email), Shop windows (web/microsites), posters & press (banner display advertising), guerilla (viral) and WOM (social media sites). The art of communicating to people in these areas is the same as it’s ever been. It’s about understanding the audience, the insight and the triggers.

    Most ATL agencies have these skill at their disposal, they just haven’t unlocked them in the right way yet. It’s a lot easier to bring in a “catch all” digital department than it is to train up all of your existing creative department to be able and confident enough to work on digital campaigns.

    This solution does, however, have the unfortunate result that it would relegate a lot of the digital “building” into a specialised department (much like Mac Operators currently work). I suppose it would depend on the individuals within the agency. There’s no doubt though that it would help to create fully integrated campaigns which deliver the results for the agency and their clients.

  10. Hello Iain.

    I get you.

    I think you are right, me and Anthony are advertising and you are design, so get your mucky design paws off that orange advertising account!

    there has always been loads of crossover – just look at Pentagram doing ads in the 70/80's yet they were a design agency, and on the other side of the coin places like CDP who were the classic ad agency making some of the best TV ads ever.

    I agree with Anthony in the fact that those that specialise tend to make the best work, its just that the media canvas is even larger now and more money tied to it so alot of Traditional agencies are muscling in.

    Which could leave agencies like mine in a difficult position as we arent a design agency that can do the interesting stuff Poke does or a creative production house like the barbarian group that will take ATL work and white label their digital stuff.

    Then we have the interesting thing of Glue pitching for traditional part of Eurostar, and we do the press and poster of one of our clients.

    but to answer your question, yes we like to be seen as purely advertising.

Leave a Reply