4 Reasons Why Traditional Agencies Are Dying

John Zanzarella

John Zanzarella

In “To Sell is Human” by author Daniel H. Pink, he describes how individuals are becoming more elastic in their job responsibilities. Whether they know it or not, part of what they do is selling. The same kind of elasticity has been happening to agencies for years. Clients want a one stop shop for everything, and why wouldn’t they? It’s the easiest solution, one point of contact, one check to write, one Christmas card to send out. 

On the flip side, specialization has been around since the beginning of time. There is proven value for businesses to operate with a singular focus. Nearly all agencies that offer a myriad of services started with one that they excelled at.

This is not to say that there isn’t room for both to succeed, but when it comes to digital and social specialization offers more room to succeed and here is why:


  1. Community Management and Real Time Execution – The digital advertising darling of the modern day happened early last year. By now you have all heard how Oreo (powered by Mondelez) turned a Super Bowl anomaly into a marketing case study with their “You can still dunk in the dark” campaign. The idea was designed, created and approved within mins and has had a lasting effect that extends well past the most recent Super Bowl. This type of foresight and quick thinking is excellent but it wouldn’t be as effective without a team in place to manage and engage. Multiple community managers should be assigned to brands to devote the time to properly post and engage.
  2. Custom Creative– Content is king, that’s universal in all verticals of marketing. Incorporating custom creative is a must for social and digital marketing. Real-time, unique content generated on behalf of a brand. While this is important, the context around the custom creative is where you add value that resonates with the consumer.
  3. Analytics – Marketing budgets are scrutinized time and again for ROI. Traditionally, analytics for social media have been scoffed at as not possible or positioned with “how much money is a ‘like’ worth”. Agencies that specialize in social know how to find the appropriate numbers but more importantly how to use them to adjust a brands social ecosystem accordingly. Analytics companies like Sprout Social, Socialbakers, and Topsy help your reporting. This combined with strategy around a defined ‘point of conversion’ will allow for tangible ROI.
  4. Managing Expectations – Traditional agencies like to operate in the black and white. Number driven proposals bring in business. The truth is results don’t happen over night. Agencies that guarantee you x amount of likes or revenue are likely wasting your time. The truth is, building an engaged and tangible social presence takes time. That time goes to a carefully planned set up, implementation and execution to create a successful campaign.

Business is cyclical. There are places for both full service agencies and specialization. Silverback social is an agency that specializes in social.  Maybe I am biased. With that being said here are three social specific agencies whose work we love:

  • VaynerMedia – Led by CEO Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia has experienced explosive growth in the last four years and helps Fortune 500 companies like GE, PepsiCo, Green Mountain Coffee, the NY Jets, and the Brooklyn Nets find their social voices and build their digital brands through micro content and other story telling actions.
  • Deep-Focus – A digital agency for the social age, Deep-Focus creates a plethora of content around social insights that come from their community management. Content – check, Community management– check, Context – check.
  • 360i – At 360i, the learning never stops, literally. Their agency focuses on education of both individual employees as well as brands. They have a long list of accolades and an impressive client roster to boot.

So what do you think? Are traditional agencies on the ropes?

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