Before I begin, let me just say that there's absolutely no self-serving agenda, no motivation and/or no reason to write this post beyond the fact I think it's a really intriguing question to ask and subsequently debate.
In fact, Mitch Joel and I will be doing just that this Thursday at 10am EST - you can listen, chat or call in live by following this link.
Here's the inspiration for the post: A while back, I was sitting with a Fortune 100 CMO and he asked me which agencies were knocking it out the park from a digital strategy perspective. He asked me this because he's always on the lookout for digital talent on the agency side and as of late, has not been very impressed with the stock out there (both currently on his roster and out in the market)
I was at a loss in terms of being able to provide an informed and confident shortlist.
To begin, he wanted digital + social as a combined offering. Big brands want both and expect both to be neatly rolled up and bundled together (at a discount) with a best in class to boot. That's about as likely as spotting th Loch Ness Monster in my opinion. Or being a little less cynical, as frequent an occurance as Halley's Comet.
So let's assume for a moment that digital = social or at least social is a subset of digital. Who are the agencies that are blazing a trail and solidifying a reputation as leaders in digital vision, strategy and planning?
Ad Age recently published their Agency A-list and included several agencies in their OVERALL top 10 that absolutely owe their heritage to digital. They included:
- Resource Interactive at number 4
- 360i at number 6
That's a fairly progressive way to make the claim that digital leadership can go toe-to-toe with the best of the best and that digital has mainstreamed, but does it answer the question as to who truly is leading the way from a digital STRATEGY (as opposed to EXECUTION) standpoint? In addition, and not to take away any credit from Resource Interactive and 360i (who both deserve the accolades), perhaps the overall bar is just low and all it takes to rock our world is a 6-pack in a towel (jury's still out on the long time scaleability, viability and efficacy of Old Spice Guy) in the form of Number 1 agency, Wieden + Kennedy.
Also, I'm not sure how many cases (exceptions at best) a digital agency has won an AOR piece of business on behalf of entire brand. PLEASE GIVE EXAMPLES IF YOU HAVE THEM!!!
Getting back to Ad Age for a moment, there are several firms on the top 10 that have made major pushes of late towards digital - and specifically social - leadership. Again, I'm not sure to what extent these companies demonstrate acute strategic leadership from a digital standpoint. They include:
- Mullen (number 3)
- Droga5 (number 5)
- Edelman (number 7)
- CP&B (number 8)
All I'm saying is that if I had $1 for every time I've heard a CMO complain (bitterly) about the digital service they're getting from their agencies (some even on this list), I'd be bathing in my hot tub of virtual cash (whatever the hell that means)
And so I ask you this without any pretense and without any agenda: who are the agencies that are consistently representing, demonstrating and most importantly delivering superior, visionary and ultimately effective digital strategic leadership, services and solutions?
Where possible, provide examples of their work and proof positive that they have talent that goes beyond one loud-mouthed "visionary" or external face!
Try your best not to tout your own please, but if you feel strongly that your agency is the iBee's iKnees, then go for it. Hopefully the CMO in my conversation (together with any others out there) will benefit from this post and use it as a catalyst or conduit towards their next exploratory conversation or RFP process.
For what it's worth, I'd love for my hypothesis to be refuted i.e. there are few to little to no agencies (no matter how big or small; owned or independent; full service or specialized) out there that are bringing the digital strategy noise and social strategy funk.
So what you got people?