A recent "AdWeek" article observed that, "digitally centric agencies like R/GA are adding more traditional brand-building capabilities while TBWA and BBDO are trying to apply digital to their orgs."
This article prompted a student of business to pose the following question on LinkedIn: "Who has it harder traditional agencies or digital ones?"
This was my response:
Full service, traditional agencies have longer histories and potentially tighter relationships with major advertisers. Digital agencies have deeper and wider technical skills and experience, e.g., building a rich media site or social media campaign. It will be very interesting to see how things play out, and I think, as I write this and look at the names you have listed above, it may be a case by case situation, i.e., some digital agencies are strong enough to make the transition, and some creative agencies are forward looking enough to make inroads.
One thing that I think both benefits and limits digital agencies is that many of these agencies grew out of the direct agencies of the large media conglomerates. While test and learn, measurement and optimization are important, and while digital realms provide a bevy of data to work with, that kind of mindset can be limiting as the interactive space becomes more and more "upper funnel" - with more opportunities for branding and truly breakthrough creative thinking.
All that said, what is happening on the ground right now is that
(a) creative agencies are seeking to hire talent with interactive backgrounds, particularly from top digital agencies and
(b) both digital and traditional agencies are expanding and changing out their strategy teams. Several major agencies have new strategy heads as of the beginning of 2010.