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Why CMOs can no longer ignore digital agencies that do it all

By Mark Stecker



Marketing decision-makers – you need to think differently about how you use lead agencies, because the days are gone when digital agencies only take instructions for collateral.


In 2023, a lot more is expected from all agencies. They need to be creatively, technically, and strategically brilliant. Clients want one agency to do it all: the strategy, implementation, and measurement – and of course, bring in the results.


That agency must be digital.


Why? Because the traditional agency model is as broken as the substation on the corner.


A digital agency must take the lead


Like members of parliament or a Bafana coach, brands give agencies their hard-earned money to do very little. This doesn't work anymore. Whether the agency is a big-hitter or Jared in his parents’ garage-turned-studio cottage, clients want more bang for their under-valued buck.


(Jared, we know you’re faking it until you make it, but please stop telling people you do 3-D animation and digital marketing strategy).


Jared, Honourable Members, and soccer players aside, the problem is that many clients and CMOs use traditional brand agencies to lead their marketing, with the digital aspect outsourced to someone else. That’s fine if the brand is a KFC or BMW, but not everyone needs an above-the-line billboard or TV ad campaign.


digital already


With global digital ad spending alone expected to comprise nearly 60 percent of total ad spend by 2025, most campaigns are predominantly digital already. Despite this, clients and CMOs alike still want above-the-line agencies to come up with the million-dollar idea (or the 19-million-rand idea), with digital agencies seen as purely implementors.


There’s a better way of doing this.


Putting digital front and centre


Clients can’t afford to throw money at their digital marketing and hope for the best. They expect more, and they will look deeper, thanks to digital measurability. If they’re not getting results, they’ll hang their agency out to dry. Which is a good thing.


(Jared, we’re watching you).


More clients expect their agencies to do it all – ATL, BTL, TLT. Basically, colour in all the lines, then create a podcast and matching app to go with it. The above-the-line agencies have combined talent within them, like social, branding, creative, strategy, and PR, but look closer and you’ll find that they outsource many of these functions. Before we continue, we want to say that we have nothing against above-the-line agencies. Some campaigns specifically call for an ATL approach, and we have mad respect for the great ones.


However, in a digital-first world, if a brand isn’t a KFC or a BMW, it’s more likely that they’ll want a series of YouTube videos instead of flighting TV ads, or they’ll want thought-leadership pieces in an online publication that caters to their industry or niche, instead of a two-page print spread.


do it all


For a digital campaign, a digital agency should do it all.


It should brainstorm the big idea, run with the creative, and do the implementation and execution. Of course, a campaign can be omnichannel, which translates to offline touchpoints as well. The right, experienced digital agency has that covered, too.


Find an expert agency that thinks digital-first


When an above-the-line agency leads a campaign, digital implementation can become a secondary aspect. It's not about consumer-centric campaigns that only win awards; it's about increasing sales, leads, and meetings. It’s also about awareness, share of voice, and brand affinity. That’s always the bottom line, and a digital-first agency can achieve this – but only if there’s a clear understanding of the client’s business objectives.


Translating business objectives into measurable digital executions is a big part of the end goal. You can only do that if you understand the business – and an agency can only pull that off if they’re an expert in the space.

The right digital agency is not just a collateral-implementor


understanding it in-depth


The agencies you want to work with take the time to get under the hood of the business. They understand it in-depth, then use that information to underpin everything, from the 19-million-rand idea to the execution.


There are still many brands that should be more digitally focused, but they’re working with traditional agencies that hold 90 percent of the account. These agencies don't understand digital, or they're outsourcing to providers who are disconnected from the client’s business objectives.


Like Jared. Or the lead agency you’re working with at the moment.


For a predominantly digital campaign, that agency must be digitally-savvy, data-driven, and experienced. The right digital agency is not a collateral-implementor; they come up with the strategy and run with it.


Most importantly, they understand exactly what your business wants to do – then show you the best way to do it, so you get the results you what.



The agency model might be broken, but there’s another way of doing things. Contact us; we’ll show you that we can do it all (except fix the substation).



Why not drop us a message?