Posts Tagged ‘Dave Birss’

Dave Birss on Digital (Part 2.)

January 21, 2010

To follow on from part 1 earlier in the month, I asked Dave Birss a few more questions on the evolution of Digital media and the difference between the work created by Traditional Vs. pure play Digital agencies. Thanks again to Dave, for taking the time out to put his thoughts across.

How do you think the evolution of all things digital media has affected the agency model in general terms?

I’ve spoken to quite a number of traditional agencies over the past year and I’ve seen some changes in attitude towards digital. But they seem to be pretty half-arsed. They know they have to incorporate it into what they do but they think they can address it by hiring some digital people to ‘integrate’ their work online. That’s never going to work.
It all comes back to this red herring of the word ‘digital’. It’s not about hiring a couple of people to help them fill a new kind of media space. That’s concentrating on entirely the wrong thing. The big change we need to address is consumer behaviour. The influence of advertising in the buying process is continuing to drop. Online retail is continuing to grow. The spread of the mobile web is giving more people access to impartial reviews at the point of purchase. These are the things we need to be addressing.
And I think to do that properly, agencies need to take a more radical look at their model, their structure and their purpose.

Do you think there is a big difference between traditional ad agencies’ digital work compared to pure play digital agencies?

Generally yes. But the difference is a lot less than it used to be.
However, I see each kind of agency tending to fall into different traps. Please excuse these obnoxiously sweeping generalizations. And please understand that the comments that follow are based on my experience in quite a number of agencies rather than in my current position!
‘Pure Play’ Digital Agencies have tended to suffer from a lack of integration. This is not entirely their fault. They are usually given a brief that only applies within the boundaries of pixel-ville, along with a TV ad and a poster campaign that’s not designed for participation or engagement. To get anything that will attract any kind of involvement, they either have to go off-message or use borrowed interest. The result is a disjointed consumer journey.
On the other hand, traditional ad agencies often come up with digital work that ‘integrates’ with their TV ad or poster campaign. By integrating, I mean that they come up with stuff that uses the same visual assets or hangs on the same line. It’s as if the digital stuff is the less important bit that gets added on after the more ‘glamorous’ work has been done. And the job of the digital work seems to be to advertise the advertising.
I’ve been scathing to both camps, I know. Basically, I think the entire industry needs a fresh approach. One with an engaging idea at the centre of it that integrates seamlessly from the first time the audience encounters it to the moment they hand over their credit card. I live in a utopian world!

Part 2 - Interview with Dave Birss


Dave Birss on Digital (Part 1.)

January 14, 2010

A while back I read a blog post that really got me thinking. Written way back in 2007, by Dave Birss. The post explained Dave’s thinking on the evolving Agency model and generally what he thought on the Traditional Agency V Digital Agency debate. To save time you can read the original post in full here, but in a nutshell, Dave’s forward thinking on what he thought the future held led me to ask him a few more questions.

For those of you who don’t know, Dave is Head of Digital Creative at OgilvyOne and Creative Head of the Ogilvy Digital Lab (an innovation division within the agency). He’s been agency side for over 15 years with a long list of top agencies – Poke and MRM to name just two.  Listen hard and listen well.

Every agency under the sun seems to claim to ‘get digital’ at the moment – what are your thoughts on this?

I think that ‘getting digital’ is a bit of a red herring. What surprises me is how many agencies don’t ‘get people’. The old way of doing advertising was simply about finding an interesting way of communicating a client’s message. That worked in a broadcast culture. But things aren’t like that now. It’s not about digital technology – it’s how digital technology has changed people’s behaviour and expectations.
It’s easier for consumers to have their voice heard. It’s easier to find out the opinions of people who’ve used a product.  It’s easier to share information with your friends.  The agencies that truly ‘get people’ will be coming up with the most effective ideas. Bad ones will be creating work that gets ignored.

The post you wrote back in 2007 described three distinct approaches a digital agency could take in order to survive the future – do you still agree with this now?

My opinion hasn’t changed too much. But if I was to write that piece again today, I’m sure it would be pretty different. I’ve got a whole new swarm of bees in my bonnet!
To be honest, ad agencies haven’t adopted digital quite as well as I thought they would. I suppose the economic downturn is one reason for that as they’ve been concentrating on just staying afloat. But I still think a lot of them continue to suffer from ostrich syndrome, thinking the world will at some point start loving TV ads again like they did in the 80s. Good luck to them!

– I’ll post more on this interview later in the month.

Part 1 - Interview with Dave Birss