Agencies in the Social Era

Social media is changing not only how brands and publishers market to consumers, but it is also changing the way that they operate altogether. This is the fourth article of an eight-part series dubbed “The Social Operating System,” which explores how advertisers, agencies and publishers are leveraging social media to build audience and engagement. The series is made possible through the sponsorship of Vitrue, a provider of social media management services.


The rise of social media has changed how all businesses function. Digiday asked top execs from top agencies like Digitas, AKQA, Deep Focus and others to share their thoughts on how social media has changed how their agency operates. See what observations they had to share.

Noah Malin, VP and group director of social media, Digitas
Social media has been a paradox for agencies in that they have the opportunity to become more diverse and yet they also have the necessity to be focused. RFPs go out to public relations agencies now as well as marketing agencies and digital agencies for the same projects. The danger is that agencies have license to try it all without having a strong centered idea of who they are and what they ought to be for their clients. Winning agencies have distilled the essence of who they are as an agency and the way they serve clients without pigeonholing themselves into traditional notions of where an agency should play. Certainly the Active Branding philosophy has been very successful for us at Digitas in opening doors beyond where a digital agency might be expected to play while still maintaining our soul and purpose.

Darryl Ohrt, executive creative director, Carrot Creative
Social tools have made agencies more transparent. In the old days, creative people liked to keep things “behind the curtain,” and make it seem like everything that happened was magic. It’s not. Great, talented people make things happen. To that end, we’ve chosen to put our people front and center. We created, where visitors can browse through each and every employee at our firm, connect to them individually, and see their entire resume of experience. A lot of agencies only pimp their senior talent. We put everyone out there, and support them in the myriad of voices that they represent. We don’t force disclaimers – and we expect people to be themselves.

Ian Schafer, CEO, Deep Focus
Ten years ago I started building Deep Focus as an integrated digital agency that operated from the consumer outward, with a focus on using media “at” people to influence media “between” people. The evolution of social media has justified this strategy, but has also taken the approach from a hunch to reality, at scale. Improvements in social media technologies and platforms have enabled us to optimize everything to meaningful engagements — engagements with measurable real business impact and outcomes. As a digital agency focused on consumer engagement, we believe the most legitimate measure of success should be advocacy. We’re now able to put paid, owned, and earned media, creative, and technology seamlessly to work together to eliminate the need for a standalone social media agency. Social should be at the heart of digital, not in (yet) another silo.

Kyle Bunch, executive producer, mobile and social platforms, R/GA
The biggest change as a result of social media is how (and with whom) agencies collaborate. The beauty of social media is that it’s empowering consumers to play a more active role in defining the rules of engagement with brands. To address that reality, groups that didn’t previously work together—marketing, P.R., product development, customer service, retail and just about every other business function—must stay in sync (in real-time, no less). The net result has required breaking down of walls and forging new connections across organizations.

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