Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 25, 2010 9:05 PM

Social Media Agency Or Digital Marketing Agency? The Debate Rages On

Episode #187 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

Here is a pretty heated (but full of mutual love and respect) debate with Joseph Jaffe (author of Life After The 30-Second Spot, Join The Conversation and Flip The Funnel, Blogger over at Jaffe Juice and Chief Interrupter at Powered) about the value of a Social Media Agency versus a Digital Marketing Agency. The debate was inspired by the AdWeek article, The New Social Gurus, which also focused on how Jaffe's company, Crayon, was recently acquired by Powered. The article made some very "interesting" points, which I commented on in this Blog post: Social Media Gurus - That Old Chestnut. Aaron Strout (CMO of Powered at Blogger over at Citizen Marketer 2.1) acted as moderator/referee/voice of reason. Enjoy the conversation...

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast #187.

By Mitch Joel

Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Brook adams
    Mitch Joel

    As a person who is not involved in marketing in any direct way and this is just my opinion, I do think digital marketing can be done without having a social media strategy because the consumer might not be connected in the social media sphere pertaining to a particular brand so why waste time and energy trying to engage people who are not involved. Ex. Are people on viagra on social media sites? What about fly fisherman? How about construction workers?

  • Posted by Laurie Myles
    Mitch Joel

    I really enjoy your blog. Is everyone else like me? I hope so. I have been a marketing professional for years and I find your information exceptionally useful in the every changing, segmented advertising market place. I really enjoyed your book and have recommended it to many of my clients.
    With regard to Brook Adams comment, no one medium hits the entire target, but for sure you'll be missing a huge segment if you ignore social media. There is not a product or service that I don't first research about on the internet. Whether its location, knowledge about the product or knowing more about how a brand fits with my needs. Social marketing puts you the radar screen. Why not do it...its far cheaper than mass media like television.
    I am , I hate to say, of the viagra age group and I use the internet constantly. Everyone I know does to. You'd be surprised how many of the fisherman guys do too. Its essential.
    Laurie or Insider Marketing Group. Toronto, Canada

  • Posted by markclayson
    Mitch Joel

    I really enjoy your blog. Is everyone else like me? I hope so. I have been a marketing professional for years and I find your information exceptionally useful in the every changing, segmented advertising market place. I really enjoyed your book and have recommended it to many of my clients.

  • Posted by Rob Jeanveau
    Mitch Joel

    *Long comment warning*

    Hi Mitch,

    I listened to the podcast and really enjoyed the insight and banter both you and Joe brought to this debate. Really though, aside from agreeing on some mutually accepted points I don't think either of you are any closer to seeing the other's side.

    I immediately wanted to leave a comment, but not having read the article, your post or the comments it generated decided first to get myself up to speed.

    To me it really is more about how Powered wants to label its practice and whether or not it is comfortable pigeonholing itself (temporarily?). Sadly Joe never answered your question whether there was anything that Powered brought to the table that Twist Image or any other competent digital agency did not. I would have loved to hear his answer here. I am guessing that the answer (maybe not his exact words mind you), and I think you agree here, is that with the exception of specific services that a digital agency may or may not chose to offer (experiential marketing or other) as a business decision, there is nothing that they do that a digital agency doesn't. I think this is where you come in to saying that means they are really a digital agency.

    The point of differentiation that Joe is clinging to though is simply that they do it better than the majority of digital agencies. I think his claim that they are getting feedback from clients saying that the strategy or tactics their current digital or marcom agency are using is not getting them the results they want is valid. I think that just because there are digital agencies that “get it� and are doing amazing things doesn’t mean they all are, or that the majority are for that matter, as you claim. I think you are a bit insulated because your peers, the agencies you compete with and even the kinds of clients that seek out top digital firms “get it.� I tend to agree with Joe here that this is the exception not the rule.

    The gamble (if you want to call it that) that Powered and these other “social media agencies� are taking is whether the next shiny thing might come along and force them to rebrand. Clearly Joe and Powered are comfortable with that gamble. In asking “what Powered brings to the table that a competent digital agency doesn’t� though you raise the question what does Twist image or other digital agencies bring to the table that a fully competent communications or marcom agency doesn’t. By fully competent I mean who really and truly understands digital (possibly even have a digital practise), not just the biggest or most well known agencies, nor even the top 10%. I think your answer here would also have to be that you don’t bring anything more than what the best marcom agencies do, you just do it better that the majority (read most) of them do.

    Like Powered did not create the term “social media agency�, Twist Image did not create the term “digital marketing agency�. In both cases you have just run with the term that you feels best describes your service offerings and core competencies.

    There was likely a time when branding your agency as a “digital agency� seemed like a risk, and that digital was just another “spoke,� as you say, in the marketing wheel. In the long run however, it seems digital became so big and so important a spoke that big companies were no longer comfortable leaving this aspect of their business with anyone other than a group that specialized in this area. That their traditional marketing agency, who also did advertising and PR and investor relations and whatever else, did not have the focus, and was not nimble enough to keep on the cutting edge. This is not to say that many did not, but a sufficient amount were not, that it created room for agencies like yours that made “digital marketing� their core competency. At that time (and often still now) it was not unusual for a traditional communications agency to develop the overall strategy and the client to farm out the digital components to their digital agency. That is changing more and more, and as you mention there is a case for making your digital marketing agency responsible for your overall strategy.

    What Powered is counting on though is that social media is going to see that same vertical and horizontal growth as digital did, and that it becomes too important to leave to anyone but a “social media agency.� Whether Joe turns out in a year or two to be right or wrong, that is the gamble that he is taking and seems to be comfortable with.

    To sum things up, if you are insisting that Powered is nothing more than a competent digital agency, you have to also concede that Twist Image is nothing more than a competent traditional marketing agency.

  • Posted by Steve Adams
    Mitch Joel

    Awesome show guys! I love the conversation with you guys that continues on this subject.

    Thank you for taking the time,

  • Posted by Aaron Strout
    Mitch Joel

    Rob - really thoughtful/insightful comment. I think Joe is planning on swinging over to comment as well but he's been buried with client proposals and the like.

    Aaron (CMO of Powered)

  • No one medium hits the entire target, but for sure you'll be missing a huge segment if you ignore social media - I have to agree! Brands can turn strangers in to friends online and then friends in to customers.

  • Posted by KOJO BONTI- AMOAKO
    Mitch Joel

    Love reading your pages, brilliant thinking .Thank you for your time.

  • Posted by Laxmi
    Mitch Joel

    I am very happy to be able to find this excellent article! After reading your article, I feel learned a lot of things, and we hope to see your next article, look forward to your masterpiece.

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