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Digital Agency Trends Are Way Ahead of Us

In case you missed it, last week we posted a series of stories on the new transition toward a PR business model with a far heavier focus on digital branding and content creation services.

First Weber Shandwick EVP Jason Wellcome discussed the firm’s decision to formally create and publicize a new digital content unit called Mediaco after nearly a decade of providing more explicitly content-focused services for clients. Then Edelman PR content strategist Steve Rubel told us about his firm’s plan to address clients’ changing demands by simply doing more of what they’ve been doing for years — integrating new creatives into the larger Edelman team rather than launching and promoting a new entity.

Their observations seemed to support our conclusion that the classic “Is it PR, marketing or advertising?” debate would only grow more intense in the months and years to come. We found this all quite fascinating, but some people who’ve worked in the industry longer than we have let us know that these revelations were not really news at all with a collective “meh.”

A new study completed by Second Wind, provider of resources across the interlocking communications disciplines, tells us that they are (of course) correct.

Despite the hype about this recent strategic shift, agencies across the communications spectrum have been working on “expanding their digital footprints” for a while. In fact, a solid majority of the agencies participating in the study (which crossed the PR/marketing line) have already created “dedicated digital groups”. And while approximately one in three of these businesses separated their digital groups from their services at large a la Weber Shandwick, the majority have taken the Edelman approach in simply recruiting more talent trained in digital content creation/social media management in order to ensure that, in the words of Second Wind founder and managing director Tony Mikes, “digital and interactive services are…a part of [their] service menus.”

Somewhat surprisingly, these trends also apply to small and midsize agencies. But we still have a ways to go: the percentage of overall agency revenue driven by digital products is only expected to increase 1% between 2012 and 2013, and many of the smaller agencies in question still have a relatively small group of digitally focused employees in-house.

How do these numbers compare to those at your firm? Do we agree that the most successful agencies will be those that move more quickly, completely and flexibly into the digital content space?

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