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What's next for the digital agency?

What's next for the digital agency? Nanette Marcus

Digital has changed the way we think of humanity. It gives communities an opportunity to connect, and brands the ability to have conversations with communities like never before.

With all of this in mind, iMedia Agency Summit keynoter Mike Scafidi, director of digital marketing operations at PepsiCo, gave attendees a unique perspective on what corporations are looking for in agency support now and in the future.

To start, Scafidi took a brief look at the history of digital.

During the dot com boom, a robust digital project would cost $2 million. Today? That same project could be done for $10,000, he noted.

Then there was the Web 2.0 era, where brands and agencies got away from flat websites.

The social revolution came next. "Brands now have to find a social voice," Scafidi said. Previously, brands blasted messages out to the consumer. "Now there's a true dialog."

With each new digital phase, the previous innovations became standard. "Every time you moved on, the previous became the norm," he said.

Citing his own switch from agency to brand, Scafidi explained that corporate marketers tend to be generalists. "They're responsible for a brand's digital existence, yet most of them are not digital experts." When a digital marketer moves to the corporate side, there's the opportunity to see what can happen with a strong internal champion for digital.

Scafidi has found that more and more marketers with digital agency backgrounds have made the switch to his team. "Our brand had an internal agency structure inside," he noted. "This made it hard for our agency because they weren't the only experts at the table, but it made us all bring better work."

He explained that the frustrations on the digital agencies' sides are understandable. "Agency only sees through one lens into the entire corporation. They don't see all the competing internal politics."

"As a consultant, being on site is important to see the internal changes," Scafidi noted.

It's important to consider how your agency looks at all the available platforms.

  • Desktop: Even with a "mobile first" perspective, the desktop is where brands have a more complicated experience. "Some of our consumers don't have a smartphone," Scafidi reminded the audience.

  • Mobile: The phone is not necessarily about the app. It's about the user. It's a true proxy of who they are and what they do. "There's the opportunity to engage with them during those gap times, when they're waiting, etc.," he said. Marketers should take the time to understand geofencing engagement opportunities.

  • Social: Are we setting the tone, or are we participating? Sometimes it's a little of both. Agencies can advise when to play what role.

  • Emerging experiences and the Internet of Things: Where can we have a real life experience with our consumer?

There are new opportunities for brands ahead, as well as a role for digital agencies to play.

  • Brands as publishers: Pepsi.com showcases Pepsi as a publisher in 70 countries. "It's key to understand," said Scafidi. "This creates an owned media platform where we have an opportunity to reach out to consumers without spending money for an ad buy."

  • Start-ups: Pepsi likes working with innovative start-ups, but only when the partnership makes sense. "It's really critical that you, as an agency, understand our (the brands) needs." A digital agency as a start-up filter is a great goal and added value to your clients.

  • Strategic versus big agency: There is a disconnect between what some agencies charge and what they deliver. "They want to charge the rates of a strategic agency and then keep those rates through the project," Scafidi scoffed. Agencies need to be productive at the right rate.

  • Measurable ROI: It's imperative that the agencies understand the business to help define that measurable ROI.

  • Pay-for-performance: Scafidi said, "This is probably the future of agencies, specifically as measurable ROI comes into place. Because it's so measurable, it works on both sides.
    As a corporation, we rely on those metrics. On your side, it allows you to provide a goal."

Lastly, corporations need a trusted advisor. Agencies are the only people who see across multiple corporations. "We need to make sure that we have a good partner giving us good advice. How do we find the right technology to work with? How do we find the right channel to communicate on?"

Nanette Marcus is senior editor at iMediaConnection.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

"Double exposure" image via Shutterstock.

Nanette is iMedia Communications' executive editor.   In addition to her roles at iMedia, Nanette has served as a specialist in content marketing, editorial content, public relations and social media for various clients. She's contributed to...

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