Back in the early Web 1.0 days of the “Interactive Agency,” it was pretty safe to say that you only had to know how to do a couple things really well– build websites and create banner ad campaigns. Then, throw in some shotgun email marketing and a few extranets and you could build a business. To give props to the early pioneers — Organic, Agency.com, Sapient, US Web/CKS, APL Digital, iXL, Red Sky, and others — they were the few, the proud, the digital natives.
These days, as digital platforms, widgets and technologies multiply, that which defines what an “interactive agency” is has become a sum of many moving parts. Say you’re considering changing interactive agencies. The list of services you might require alone can be daunting, and can involve…
* Do they offer digital branding capabilities?
* Do they offer online research or do they outsource it?
* Do they have online brand strategists?
Tactic– do they have expertise in:
* Search (SEO/SEM)
* Behavioral Targeting
* Creative Optimization
* Site Building and Maintenance?
* What are their technology capabilities?
* Do they author in all programs?
* Do they have expertise in targeted email marketing?
* Viral applications?
* Broadband video?
* Do they work in Mobile/Wireless?
* On Demand?
* Digital Out of Home?
Start with your objectives and goals.
You get the point– this interactive media stuff is hard. And there’s a lot to consider in choosing a partner.
My advice is to start with your customer segments and brand objectives and then work outward from there. The digital marketing continuum is growing by the day, so if you can start by focusing on your specific goals — be it brand awareness, trial, lead generation, purchase, word of mouth, et cetera… the list of specific capabilities you need in the near term will likely steer you to the right partners to get off on the right foot.
Remember, no interactive agency, ours included, is best of breed in every digital discipline. The trick is to identify the capabilities you really need instead of overpaying for infrastructure or a name that’s 10 miles wide but only a few inches deep in each capability.
Might you need more than one interactive agency?
If the name of your game is integration and simplicity, then you’re likely to buy a bigger, full service shop and fall somewhere on their client roster. The question is to identify where they really excel. If rich, luxurious brand sites is what you’re seeking, then go where the gold awards for site development are. Whereas, if you’re looking to move beyond the banner and create campaigns that leverage broadband video through custom short and long form video spots and contextual pre-rolls, you might also need a more specialized kind of interactive creative partner.
There’s much more to measure.
Once you get past the interactive media and creative partners, you’ve got to consider how you’ll measure your new agencies’ success:
* In ideas?
* In service?
* In process?
* In business results?
* In cost?
* In collaboration with your other agency partners?
There’s a lot to measuring success in choosing today’s Interactive Agency because there are so many moving parts. But if you’re crystal clear about your goals going in, then the right capabilities, creativity and chemistry are just a short list away.
Alan Schulman is Chief Creative Officer of Brand New World.