You can hardly blame them. We can all see where the money is. And I’m inclined to agree with Organic’s Kingdon who recognizes lots of opportunity to add strategic value in the complex world of digital marketing. As Kingdon it:
“Historically, the weight was a lot more on execution not strategy. It’s a lot harder today. There’s a huge digital connection strategy that needs to be considered with lots of touch points that have been considered individually but not holistically.”
As this quote suggests and the WSJ article emphasized, it can be hard to incorporate this detail-rich mode of thinking into traditional agencies. And as anyone who has worked at traditional agencies know, it’s easy to see why.
People who work in agencies tend to be focused on inventing some version of a “big idea,” often as manifested in a high-impact execution. They are trained to create stuff that makes a big splash—and generally the same big splash—in as many places as possible. This kind of thinking—let’s call it top-down thinking—likes to apply big ideas across a broad landscape. it values originality, impact and consistency. Top-down thinkers get frustrated by too many details. They always want to "keep it simple" and saying we need “to get out of the weeds.”
Great digital marketing requires an attention to detail and ability to synthesize a complex array of perspectives from multiple sources. This kind of thinking—let’s call it bottom up thinking—is good for customizing messages across multiple touchpoints and optimizing communication through feedback loops. Bottom-up thinkers like data, they like observation. Bottom-up thinkers get frustrated by big ideas that suggest an over-simplified view of the situation. They are always saying things like, “Can we just look at the data?” or “That’s only true some of the time.”
I tend to be a bottom up thinker, more inductive than deductive, to use a more traditional opposition. I start with details and build up a hypothesis, challenging my thinking with new perspectives and data as I work. I’m the one always being told to get out the weeds.
Both styles of thinking are important and good creative organizations need a little bit of both. But they don’t always mix well, which may be one of the reasons traditional agencies are having such a hard time integrating their digital practices.