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Guest Column: 6 success mantras for digital agencies

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Guest Column: 6 success mantras for digital agencies

The digital industry has seen an explosive growth over the last few years, and 2013 is set to be an exciting year. Digital marketers can no longer view their contribution to a brand as a means to end. They need to take risks, be innovative and prove to be a brand’s most valuable partner.

There is no ‘golden rule book’ that guides us to achieve the same, but having worked with one of the best digital agencies in the country, here are some of the things I picked up along the way…

Tell everyone you’re an agency, but act like a startup
The great thing about being the guys who straddle technology and artistry is that you can build stuff for brands. Learn from tech startups how they do it. Take more risks, create a culture of innovation, be faster and leaner, and learn to launch in beta. In fact, teach your clients about it. Brands are hardwired against the ‘iteration’, but tech startups know better than anyone that a product is never really ‘finished’ and iterative development helps ensure it stays relevant.

We recently worked with a financial brand to create a digital travel experience that has seen over three iterations in the duration it’s been live. We’ve been learning from customer experiences, independent research and our own observations to consistently improve what has now become an owned asset for the brand.

Ideas are important, but Skill is critical
In a digital world, where anything seems possible, everyone has ideas. But only few have the skill to execute. Invest in getting the most skilled guys to produce your idea as much as you would in finding the best thinkers. And I don’t mean just the technologists. Digital agencies often tend to make do with anyone who can barely string together a sentence or make collages on photoshop. You need artists, writers, scientists, and engineers. People, who will obsess about a missing comma, spend hours searching for the right font or throw a fit about an inelegant line of code. Those are the guys who will take you to Cannes.

Think ‘Account v/s Project’
An agency must strive to produce high quality work by bringing out the best in its people. Some organisations have strong project management and others have strong account leadership. I believe that the best work is done by living by an account and growing teams around the account. The advantages are many – solid client relationships, sustained financial health and strategic work rooted in good communication.

If you can’t find a creative technologist, make one
If you’re a digital agency in India, you know how elusive great technology people are. He or she is the guy/ girl who says ‘yes’ to everything that the creatives throw at him, who ‘figures it out’ instead of being the ‘it can’t be done’ party pooper, and who is ready to ‘build it’ if it doesn’t exist. Sure, in IT crazy India you’ll find plenty of software developers, but the creative technologist is a rare animal.

And even when you find them (you’re likely to spot them on hacker forums), you have the somewhat uphill task of getting them to join an advertising agency of all places, when what the guy really wants to do is build his billion dollar app. One of the ways we have done it at Chutney is by identifying these guys early on and giving them the tools and culture they need to grow into becoming creative technologists. We’ve created a lab space, sent our guys back to school to sharpen their skills and participated in hack days and consumer tech exhibits. It doesn’t happen overnight, but when you do find the guy, it can change the game quite radically.

Using the tools of project management
Strategic project management is now an essential function for the success of any digital agency. Two tools of project management that agencies must abide by are – ‘risk management’ and ‘flexibility’. Project managers are required to assess and anticipate the risk attached to any project and try and reduce the possibility of anything going wrong. They are also at the same time expected to provide the creative with enough flexibility and freedom for them to ideate and come up with the ‘big’ ‘award-winning’ strategies. Balancing these two roles perfectly is the key to ensure sustained, quality work.

End to end delivery
End to End is a term often thrown around in the advertising industry nowadays. Most brands are looking for agencies that don’t just offer on-premise support, but also play a consultative and backend role when going digital, that is, running a campaign from strategy and implementation across various platforms to reporting.

The author is Chief Operating Officer – North at Webchutney

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