Respond to Why agencies don’t get digital

There has been a rather heated discussion on Marketing-Interactive regarding the article
Why agencies don’t get digital – our readers speak
A lot has been covered by the author Phil Carroll and other participants in the discussion like:

  • Applying old world models to new world technology
  • Human resource issue
  • The lack of technical competency or production capability
  • etc…

Personally i find the article and what has been discussed noteworthy, comprehensive and useful. Coming from the agency background, i agree that in this region we still have a lot to learn, to do and apply (yup, not just from talking about the concept but actually implementing it).

Much has been discussed about what agencies are lacking, what we need to do and so forth to move forwards. However, as i wrote before in another post “Client of the Year Contest – How an ideal Client Looks Like?” the clients play an equally important part in this process.

It has the same analogy with cooking. Famous chefs can cook all kind of fancy dishes, from French, Italian, Japanese to traditional British dessert but if the customer is someone like Warren Buffet, who only likes hamburger and french fries, then even Katharine Graham’s chef has to give up 🙂

Another example is with cards. To me, no mater how fancy a car looks, how prestigious the brand is, they are just driving vehicles. As long as they have air conditioning and good seats, it’s satisfactory to me.

For the development of Online Industry in the region, there is a need for clients to be more proactive and be willing to try different Online initiatives.
Right now, companies only spend about 2-5% of their marketing budget on digital (the number is based on my working experience in SEA and North Asia) so in actual fact they don’t spend a lot of resources (human resources or otherwise) on this channel.
Without the right attitude towards digital marketing and experienced managers, we will continue to see small changes towards online marketing budget/results.

From my humble opinion, human resource is the main reason behind the development of Online marketing industry in the region. It’s not limited to talented professionals working for agencies but also experienced online marketing managers/executives from the client side.
While Online Marketing professionals are rare, they seem all come to work for agencies, leaving the client-side with mostly traditional minded marketing managers.
Taking online news, magazines or offline marketing forums for example, how many people working from client side do we see/read about?
Most of the materials written in SEA and North Asia are from evangelists working for agencies/media owners/technology providers.

One can argue that professionals working from client side see no need to get their voice heard, or they want to protect the firm strategic edge over competitors.

However, i believe that companies need to spend more attention on recruiting/nurturing experienced Online marketers. They are very very rare because unlike people working for agencies, they need to possess specialized knowledge in a particular filed other than Digital in order to work for a company successfully. At the same time, these marketers are under great pressure to perform, to convince upper management about the potential return of this Online channel that they never tried before.

Without the right persons in charge on the client side, no matter how brilliant the plan that the agency puts together, it won’t be implemented successfully if at all.
Without meaningful goals, request for proposal documents, working process or campaign evaluation and a long term plan from the client side, it’s hard to judge whether a particular medium works or the agency is competent enough.
This is particularly difficult in SEA context because the way we do business is different. Trust is a big factor and we don’t embrace changes/technologies as fast as we like to believe.
There is no analytics culture within the whole company even though numerous reports are presented for example.

In short, there could be many reasons why the Online industry is where it is now in SEA. The potential is huge but it requires diligent, hard work and good leadership.

That should be all for now.

Thanks for reading,
P.S: There is a song that i love. I know about this song from a special friend, who means more to me than i realized. (I know this is bad for SEO but hey who cares :P)

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