The Biggest Challenges Agencies Face

The agency business isn’t easy, that’s for sure. Many point to a perverse incentive system, a dearth of tech talent and, of course, careless clients.

Winston Binch, chief digital officer at Deutsch LA, weighed in with his top five challenges agencies need to address as a kickoff of the Digiday Agency Summit. Please add your own additions and objections to the comments below.

1. “No one great wants to work in advertising.”
Binch sees a major problem with the most progressive creative people out there. They see startups and tech companies like Google and Facebook as far more attractive places to work. In fact, agencies often aren’t in the consideration set for the very people they most need. “There isn’t that draw and that appeal,” he said.

2. “Brands and agencies don’t know how to evaluate digital ideas.”
The Internet promised to solve the problem of knowing what works and what doesn’t. The problem Binch sees is the newest of the new stuff doesn’t get bogged down in reasons why it can’t work. That means rapidly trying new concepts. “The prototyping makes all the difference,” Binch said.

3. “Great integrated work is in short supply.”
Digital is horribly complex. The experts who know search optimization probably don’t know much about app development. And creative is often not heavily into technology. The result is a lot of specialists and brands that have disparate efforts that don’t feel tied together, Binch said. One small step Deutsch LA has taken: it requires creatives to describe their ideas in 140 characters.

4. “Big agencies are too slow.”
This will ring true of anyone who has worked at a large company. Agencies in particular, however, appear to be afflicted by paralysis by analysis. The meetings about meetings that need status calls — it all feeds a culture that Binch sees holding back the kind of agility that’s taken for granted at startups and even large tech companies like Google.

5. “Innovation (risk) is not rewarded.”
Agencies like to speak about failure, but the industry isn’t set up to absorb it. The kind of risk taking that’s needed to push forward doesn’t mesh with how agencies are compensated by clients. And who knows if the client is going to be around for another year anyway? The result: a system where agencies tend to do a lof of the same rather than push the boundaries.

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