The World: Insider's View - Australia

With the inevitable expansion of digital marketing, agencies must decide how to integrate it into their offering, David Whittle writes.

This year, and in particular over the past few months, digital marketing has become mainstream in Australia. The interests of clients, planners, creatives and suits are finally aligning. For some time, many agencies have encouraged integrated ideas; some, including M&C Saatchi, have had great success by ensuring the marketing disciplines are not operationally or financially siloed.

Because of the rest of M&C's proximity to digital, traditional planners, creative and account service departments have increasingly become interested in how they can make digital work.

Digital media consumption is significant and media professionals are identifying the differential between digital media spending and consumption as an opportunity.

The finance and management teams of agencies that successfully integrate digital services are enjoying the financial benefits of a growing and profitable revenue stream.

There are more digital ideas being generated than ever before. It's refreshing that creative teams are no longer presenting ideas as story- boards, print ads and radio scripts. Mainstream creative teams are generating ideas that are media-independent and increasingly are led by ideas to create media environments, rather than creating ads for media.

So what's next? Two changes will arise from all of this. First is the development of two species of digital marketing agencies: those that exist as specialised disciplines within an integrated agency (same brand, same building, same balance sheet) and those that are standalone.

To date, digital teams have been integrating mainstream ideas into digital channels. However, increasingly they will be responsible for the validation, fine-tuning and production of ideas that have come from a traditional creative team.

This leaves a question-mark hanging over the future of standalone shops. Will they become production businesses? Will they look to grow production teams in India and Malaysia, where the production talent is good and the labour is cheap?

The second change is the opportunity for creative teams to generate ideas around the creation of a media property. Think websites, stencils, guerrilla, blogs, vlogs, mlogs, podcasts and video shows.

So what is the role of media agencies in this? Why would a media agency recommend a $5 million investment in creating media content if it means it stands to lose income? Only by aligning agency and client needs will we deliver agnostic campaigns independent of creative and media bias.

What's the answer? Creative agencies responsible for the message and media agencies responsible for the medium. Right? If so, the media commission model will soon be dead. So, for businesses in larger markets that have not been forced to integrate services, what does the future hold?

- David Whittle is the head of digital at M&C Saatchi.

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