How do you collaborate with other agencies?
Sometimes we’re the digital crew in the back room. Most of the time we have a seat at the table, working directly with our client and their other agency partners. We’re fairly flexible, but we find that clients get better results when there is full transparency and equal status among agency partners. It’s important to acknowledge each agency’s strengths and specialties, and also to allow the shared contribution of good ideas.
A great example was during our tenure as the digital partner for sorted.org.nz. Between 2012–15 we worked directly alongside a fantastic client and some of the best brand, advertising, PR and media talent in the country: GSL Promotus, Sputnik, Doublefish and OMD. Quite a meeting of the minds. Marketing activity was fairly constant during that period, typically with the calculators and website we’d designed getting a lot of the attention.
The analytics we’d woven into the tools gave the client remarkable insight into the financial literacy of the visitors. Media was optimised to emphasise channels delivering the most evidence of behaviour change, rather than simply the most entrances.
Do you have any examples of where your specialist skills have helped beat out traditional full service agencies?
In a pitch for a tertiary provider’s digital marketing platform we presented the quality, cost, time triangle and announced that, “for the sake of your brand and your customers, we don’t compromise on quality… so that means we’ll need to talk about which of the other two you want to relax”. We won the work.
What stood us apart from those who approached it with a campaign mindset, we were told, was our clear desire to gain a deep understanding of the users and the business needs, and deliver a comprehensive, high-quality, long-term solution which could be built upon over years.
Why are specialist digital agencies a better option than generalists?
Clients who want great user experiences with a strategic focus, high-quality design and development, personal customer service, responsive and knowledgeable technical support are shifting toward specialist digital agencies.
What we hear is that although many agencies can deliver a full range of services, specialist firms are able to put creatives and engineers closer to clients. There are fewer layers to get through and more close collaboration than they’d previously experienced.
What may look great for a media deadline may lose its lustre pretty quickly. Modern digital properties, large and small, need to be user- and mobile-first, highly-accessible, web standards-based, open source, reusable, measurable, incredibly fast and fully secure. We’ve seen things tend to go a bit sideways for agencies who are primarily oriented towards optimising click-through and reach, yet can easily spin-up a WordPress site or theme a SaaS solution. The technical debt (not to mention the design debt) that builds up over various campaigns and across brands can be considerable.
We hear about large-scale digital projects being awarded to companies who specialise in development, and preferably fast development. What we see with those types of projects is that design can be compromised and the project fails to meet the business objectives.
While many companies offer development services, the problems confronting these types of projects require design thinking, experience in the specialist fields of content design, user experience, service design, interaction and interface design and creativity.