Marketers to Digital Shops: Diversify or Die

'We're digital' no longer compelling

Being digital alone won't cut it anymore. Digital shops that don't diversify their offerings face the same creeping irrelevance as traditional agencies that give lip service to digital, according to marketing executives polled in a new survey from RSW/US.

More than two-thirds of the 174 marketing executives polled (67 percent) said digital shops need to offer more traditional services to remain relevant, while just a third thought digital-only firms could survive long term.

"The point of differentiation that digital firms have currently in being expert in that space is going to diminish, and we’re going to be left with a lot of agencies that do digital," said Mark Sneider, president of RSW/US, a consultancy in Cincinnati. "There are going to be fewer and fewer clients looking for digital-only firms."

The finding also underscores a desire among some marketers to integrate their business under one roof. Furthermore, it explains why interactive shops like R/GA, Razorfish, and AKQA have hired creative directors and strategic planners from the traditional world and pitched full-service accounts. R/GA, for example, is now lead creative agency for Ameriprise, whose previous lead shop was Saatchi & Saatchi.

Even agencies that remain purely digital are emphasizing their capabilities in strategy and analytics, sensing the need to evolve beyond Web design, banner ads, and search marketing. "What really separates out digital firms (today) is their ability to plan strategically, understand and know how to react to the analytics, and help clients sort out the complexity of what’s going on digitally," Sneider said.

So, the lines between digital and traditional shops continue to blur, and that's fine by Robert Birge, chief marketing officer at

"As long as the client is not organized in a way that really incentivizes and institutionalizes these lines, who really cares?" Birge said. "Where do you draw these lines anymore? They’re kind of stupid and arbitrary."

Publish date: April 25, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT