Yes Traditional Agencies Can Do Digital

by James Duthie on February 20, 2012

It’s been a while since I teed off. But every now and then you read an article so blatantly wrong you feel compelled to respond. That moment came for me last week when I read an opinion piece on Mumbrella declaring that “Australia’s traditional agencies can’t manage to put out anything remotely passable as digital work”. Which is quite possibly the most ill-informed opinion I’ve heard this year. But rather than relying on sweeping generalisations to support my claim, I’ll respond in the manner appropriate of a strategist – with insights and data.

Before I get into that though, I should make it clear that I have no personal agenda linked to my response. In fact, I’ve spent the last 4 years working within a pure-play digital agency. And I’ll admit that when I first came into the role, I had an opinion similar to Daniel's. Traditional agencies did do digital poorly at the time. But that was 4 years ago. And as anyone working in digital knows, the speed of change in our industry is immense. A lot has transpired since, and the traditional agencies have rapidly bridged the capability gap.

To prove so, you only need to look as far as this year’s AIMIA award finalists. The AIMIAs are widely regarded as the pinnacle within our industry, recognising the best digital work our country has to offer. If Daniel’s assertion was correct, there’d barely be a traditional agency on the radar. Except that there is. Plenty of them. From Leo Burnett to Ideaworks to Whybin/TBWA/Tequila the traditional agencies are representing.

In fact, almost half of all AIMIA finalists came from beyond the pure-play digital environment.  I analysed the complete list of AIMIA finalists and identified projects whereby an agency was engaged. Here’s what I found:

  • 53 finalists (52%) emanated from a pure-play digital agency
  • 37 finalists (36%) emerged from traditional agencies
  • 12 finalists (12%) came from a hybrid style agency

Which seems to be fairly conclusive proof that Australia’s traditional agencies are perfectly capable of producing high quality digital work. And to be honest, I’m not sure how anyone involved in the industry could still think otherwise…


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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Parker February 20, 2012 at 4:20 am

Fair points raised…
You could easily flip this argument and suggest that digital agencies don't understand how to merge physical and digital efforts into a cohesive strategy…
Ultimately, the focus should be on best practice so that the industry as a whole can learn and deliver best practice outcomes for clients. This whole digital vs traditional is about as petty as the old CPA vs CA battle – as clients do we really care?

James Duthie February 20, 2012 at 11:08 am

Indeed. I guess that's what I'm trying to say. Why manufacture this agency rivalry when the divide really doesn't exist any more? Traditional do digital and in many cases do it well. And often bring with it a more sophisticated approach to ideation and strategy, which can only be a good thing for clients.

Cleakstar March 10, 2012 at 8:42 am

Good article. Digital marketing is no doubt a good way of marketing. But it can never replace the traditional marketing fully. A mix of traditional and digital is perfect.

Cidem May 18, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I agree with some other comments that the divide is no longer valid. I mean there is hardly any agency out there that does not use digital tools to enhance their work? Could we still say they are traditional? Even if yes, they are "digitally enhanced" traditional agencies and will be even more so in the future.

Mish Ceh January 25, 2013 at 2:10 am

I enjoyed your article James. I think for clients its all about finding the right balace and what works best for them.
Traditional agencies will have to eventually become more digital.

Atm marketing January 25, 2013 at 6:16 am

First of all nice article James, We are also working in marketing and advertising field for more than ten years at early days we mostly worked on traditional marketing but now days you have to blend the marketing efforts there is no way any of them replace one another cause both have own benefits so blending them together would be great….

Dancing Peanuts March 21, 2013 at 6:03 am

There are certainly a lot of poor agencies out there that take a stab at digital work, I think the important thing is not to "stab" at digital like it's something you can tack onto the end of a project, but instead approach it as a fresh and important perspective on marketing. You can't do digital without at first understanding advertising, and you can't do advertising these days without taking digital into consideration!


Robby Joe July 15, 2013 at 11:45 am

In my view traditional marketing cannot be replaced by digital marketing however they can assure some indirect clients.Really enjoyed the article.

M. Rameez Ul Haq January 22, 2014 at 11:16 am

Yes Indeed with your point of view Traditional Agencies can do Digital but Still Digital marketing can never replace Traditional marketing tactics.

William Forrest February 13, 2014 at 9:30 am

There's no need to argue between traditional and online marketing. They have different concept or strategy on how to implement it. The best point to talk about is the effectiveness of your marketing plan in your business.

Adam Houlahan May 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm

That's true that Digital Marketing play important role for promoting our products and services as well as creating brand of our business. The mix of traditional marketing strategies and Digital Marketing strategies bring best results for business. Thanks for sharing such an admirable post among the users.

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M Aamir July 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Valid point you mention above i agree Traditional Agencies Can Do Digital. keep it up and write more about it.Thanks

Alexandria August 18, 2014 at 9:11 am

Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t
loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.

Merlin September 4, 2014 at 9:39 am

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affiliate marketing October 12, 2014 at 11:35 am

I have read so many content concerning the blogger lovers however this article
is genuinely a nice post, keep it up.

Tim October 16, 2014 at 8:06 am

These days I think it's easier for an agency to do it the other way round. Digital to full agency! You can acquire smaller clients seeking minor web and online services, before landing bigger clients who utilise more traditional media platforms like TV and Print

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