Acquiring Digital Capabilities Is Easier Than Ever for Agencies

Agencies are an integral part of the advertising industry, responsible for helping bring clients’ creative ideas to life and then acquiring the media to put those messages in front of consumers. Historically, agencies have adapted with the shifts in media consumption, moving from print to TV and beyond.

But with digital media advancing so rapidly in recent years, some agencies have fallen behind. Whether it’s because they lack the money to build digital technology solutions of their own, or they lack the digital proficiency to offer the services to their brand clients, many agencies are leaving digital dollars on the table. Fortunately, there are ways for agencies to establish competitive digital offerings efficiently and cost-effectively.

To be clear, agencies won’t necessarily go out of business if they don’t offer digital services. Many independent traditional agencies -- those outside the holding companies -- have deep, long-standing relationships with their brand clients, sometimes going back decades. These agencies are trusted for their skills and executions in other media, including TV and print. Many of their brand clients are in no rush to move on. Instead, they’ll often opt to hire separate boutique digital agencies to handle those pieces of their marketing plans.

But traditional agencies can easily grab those portions of digital spending simply by providing services. Whereas the big holding companies were early investors and adopters in programmatic, smaller agencies can’t build their own tech solutions. Therefore, these agencies must rely on third-party vendor partnerships.

Of course, there is no shortage of independent, venture-funded ad-tech companies pitching agencies for their business, but there is another appealing solution in the form of white-label solutions providers.

Working directly with point solutions requires that agencies assemble their own network of partners and, again, they may lack the proficiency or staff to identify which technologies are going to work best for their clients. By choosing the white-label route, agencies can work directly with partners who have the expertise and maintain partnerships with best-of-breed point solutions for them. This allows agencies to quickly start selling digital offerings, including programmatic, social and mobile advertising.

This route also helps agencies avoid overextending themselves. Earlier this year, Adweek wrote about how traditional shops are building their own consultancies to compete for digital budgets, but urged caution. While offering digital media buying is slightly different than a consultancy, it’s easy to envision agencies rushing to compete without first building sound strategies. White-label partnerships make it easy for agencies to maintain pace with consumer habits, always offering their brand clients the latest products and solutions for reaching their target audiences.

Small agencies that were built and operate inside local media companies are already adopting this approach to serve the hundreds of smaller SMBs that advertise on a local level. There’s no reason that larger agencies can’t translate the same strategy to their shops, helping bring in the digital budgets of their existing clients or even winning other significant accounts for digital services.