Are shops adapting quickly to digital?

Feeling tired? It’s probably because you are spending more time using your tech devices than sleeping. At least that’s what a survey from Ofcom suggests. It found that adults spend an average of eight hours and 41 minutes a day texting, talking, typing, gaming, listening or watching something on media devices. The onward march of digital is even more obvious when you look at 16- to 24-year-olds. Almost nine in ten own a smartphone, and they spend an average of three hours and 36 minutes on them each day, compared with the adult average of one hour and 22 minutes.

Of those who can access the internet, 74 per cent use social networking sites and 60 per cent use the internet to get their news. With these trends, are ad agencies prepared for a more digital future? Agencies certainly talk a good game. And there is plenty of activity: last week, for example, Karmarama bought the mobile app specialist Nice Agency. But there are still many silos and spurious metrics being bandied about. To truly thrive, digital skills and experience need to be embedded at the heart of agencies.

Agency head

Ben Bilboul, group chief executive, Karmarama

"Unpack that 8.6 hours and you’ll find our relationship with ‘tech’ spans the whole spectrum of human endeavour. The question for brands is simple: where along that spectrum of activity can we add and create value? But the follow-on question for agencies is a searching one: how wide does our offering need to be to remain a trusted partner? We could all be doing more to think mobile, the fastest-growing element of our tech addiction. We’re still largely fixated with big screens and creating content designed for them. So, try starting with mobile: present from it, work to it and, most importantly, embrace its possibilities."

Agency head

Wayne Brown, managing director, Grey Possible

"Many ad agencies recognise the change. In the main, though, it’s still not core to most agencies’ business. Their processes haven’t significantly adapted and their talent doesn’t have the skills or time to develop ideas that exploit the new landscape. Ad agencies still need more digital experts who can spot and articulate the role that digital can play and then push it as far as it can go to solve a business problem. Not just on the high-profile ‘viral’ but on the more mundane ‘always-on’ – search copy, content calendars, landing pages etc. Ultimately, I think ad agencies need genuinely open cultures that empower those with the right skills to make a difference."

Agency head

Julian Douglas, vice-chairman, VCCP

"It’s the agencies that are culturally hardwired to evolve and adapt that are best-placed to keep pace with the opportunities that digital provides. The most successful agencies have a critical mass of digital specialists who don’t operate in silos or ‘labs’ but are incorporated deep within all departments and channels to deliver digital innovation within truly integrated ideas. It is only through this culture of collaboration that we are able to identify great digital opportunities and deliver them. More than 40 per cent of our revenue comes from digital, which highlights how important it is for agencies like us to lead the digital agenda in a changing media world."

Creative head

Chris Clarke, chief creative officer, DigitasLBi

"What this means is that, when we’re awake, we’re ‘on’. We have truly passed the tipping point where tech becomes part of being human. We no longer need a memory; we’ve got gigabytes of the stuff in our pockets. The organic matter of humanity is simply a filter for the constant arbitrage of shared data. Understanding this, helping clients navigate it and filtering the important from the pointless is a big job. But, to do it well, your business needs to have been built around it. Ad agencies struggle with this new reality because they were built around TV and print. Putting ‘we’re digital at the heart’ on your creds deck just isn’t enough."