Reading through the comments on one of the new questions this year concerning what exactly digital strategists do, I’m most intrigued by those “in the club” who don’t think it’s all that different at all. The biggest difference is in who drives the strategy, and generally they say that enviable position falls on the above the line agency. The AOR gets the money to do research and they come up with the ideas that the client starts nodding their head to. Digital agencies in particular have to do some significant educating of clients on technologies. But they are benefiting from money swinging toward digital and away from TV and print.
I hope I don’t skew any results by giving my opinions (we’re already at 996 completes so I think 1000 is going to happen today), but I’m finding myself aligning with the few people who identify themselves as integrated planners. I’ve benefited from working at some of the most integrated agencies. Mullen and Martin were very good – I was working along side information architects in 2002 at Mullen. I think both agencies benefited from a couple of believers like Micah Donahue who was at Mullen at the time and Alex Bunch who was and is at Martin. When you have a charismatic evangelist, who lives the word and can bring it to others, they can really help steer relatively conservative (not meant to be derogatory) organizations toward the light.
And CP+B was in a whole other realm. Creatives and producers were/are expected to think across all possible ways of getting a message across and creating content and engagement. Sometimes CDs would want to see first rounds of ideas that were only digital, just to push that to the forefront of minds. This generalist attitude spilled over into planning as well in the way the brief was designed to capture idea starters that could inspire any medium. And with Burger King being a leading digital brand who gets it, they were never uncomfortable producing the best ideas no matter where they land. Crispin had the ethos that best idea wins, and when you pair that with a forward thinking client who is completely beyond “matching luggage” philosophies of TV, print, radio and micro site that all harp the same thing, you can come up with Whopper Virgins that ran along side Whopper Sacrifice on facebook and the creation of Flame, a Whopper inspired fragance that was sold online and in a pop-up retail location in NY.
Now I find myself in a different situation, working with a sister digital agency, Tribal, who is in the same building but is separate in P&L, office space, email distribution list. Because one of their strategy directors recruited me here and is a great friend, there is a lot of integration happening on the Unilever ice cream business we both work on. I’m on the Tribal email distribution list, work on completely DDB projects, completely Tribal projects and those that straddle both companies. But this place has a long way to go to break down all the walls.
I see a lot of evidence of integrated planning happening across many planner friends. And a genuine love for technology, new media, and the exploration of generating content on blogs and twitter that carve out audiences who want to read our thoughts.
Are there other models out there beyond the integrated vs the sister company vs the totally seperate pairing with only a client in common? What seems to be working best?