Digital strategy is dead – Long live digital strategy

Today I participated in a Mirren Business Development session run by Brent Hodgins and one of the most interesting things he mentioned reminded me of the keynote from the BDW workshop I attended last week in New York – he said that in an increasingly competitive and changing market, the future for agencies was in the strategic planning role.

The keynote at Making Digital Work in New York, was delivered by Faris Yakob (@Faris). Faris is not know for going with the grain but when he talked about post digital strategy he raised a very important point for strategists and planners the world over.

Strategy is about thinking, it is about delivering solutions that deliver business results and therefore means working through a strong analysis of the situation to come up with these solutions – today we talk a great deal about strategic planning, channel and media strategy, about digital strategy and about insights, but strategy has never changed – it is still about this and Faris showed us how the existing planning solutions are simply regurgitating a model (the model derived in major part by Rosser Reeves and critiqued in this APG essay and also notably in the academic paper by Heath & Feldwick – 50 years using the wrong model of TV advertising) that is scientifically wrong and he talked about the meta-cognitive error that is driving this mistake.

If strategy is about thinking, about looking at all the pieces of a situation and coming up with a solution how can we possibly deliver this when strategy itself is so fragmented – fragmented between media groups, creative groups, digital strategists and consumer insight specialists. As agencies focus on transforming themselves and re-integrating different disciplines to be able to fully deliver on the new media landscape and communication paradigm, I wonder whether this integration is really possible, particularly from a business point-of-view when we look at where media agencies are today.

Not only until we can bring all these pieces of strategy together, until we can understand all the different elements of a situation can we effectively analyse them and deliver a solution to our clients – today this is most definitely not the case, and I find it hard to understand how we are going to tempt the media folks to come and sit alongside us at the table.

Much as I agree with Faris and his analysis of where strategic planning is today and how it is ‘broken’, my concern is how we need to progress from today to our new strategic future – in the current market, with existing talent and the scarcity of strategic new media knowledge. I think here is the opportunity for digital strategy to act as a ‘bridging loan’ for agencies as we transition this period of paradigm changes – but I think they are not alone, after all, what we really need is the combination of three pieces; the traditional consumer insight planner, the media channel planner and also the digital strategist.

So if we’re looking for an agency model for today (but not necessarily for tomorrow), I firmly believe that we need to focus our investment on building our strategic knowledge, insight and product and if this means creating a planning department that is a mix of media planners, digital strategists and consumer specialists, then so be it, they’ll just have to learn from each other!

You can see Faris’ post and deck on his blog, Talent Imitates, genius steals in the post ‘we’ve been wrong all along‘.

By Lex Bradshaw-Zanger

A digital native and integrated brand marketer with a passion for marketing-communications and product design, Lex has a truly international outlook and experience, having worked both in major marketing agencies and client-side brands across Europe, the US and the Middle East.

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