Yesterday, Jason Breed write about how the ad agency model is changing and today on Twitter was the #Sm77 chat that turned out to be very insightful into how ad agencies are dealing with social media. While this can’t be considered an extensive bit of research, it does represent 56 individuals who are somehow involved with, or at least opinionated about, ad agencies.

The following is how I summarize the discussion from today:

  • Some agencies don’t know how to bill for “listening”, so they don’t necessarily want to do it for client and they don’t want to expose the fact that they may not have been listening to the consumer in the past.
  • Agencies are concerned about losing control of the campaigns they manage since consumers are now empowered and can so easily steal the conversation on social media services.
  • The agency can more easily be held accountable for bad work highlighted by the consumer’s new voice found in social media.
  • Social media is new, and big ad agencies don’t want to show weakness and that they don’t know how to deal with it. With social media, the consumer is part of the advertising mix; whether by design or not.
  • Talking with consumers is different, and requires more work, than talking at them. Ongoing dialogs and relationships with consumers are even harder.
  • Some agencies are only integrating social media with traditional methods because they are being pushed to do so by their clients.
  • Social media should be embedded into all efforts, not a single department in an ad agency, which is what some are doing.
  • Agencies need to be listening either for or with their clients so they can learn take action quickly (as needed) to improve a campaign and show involvement with the community. However, being responsive to consumer feedback, gaining insight and being agile isn’t easy for some agencies.
  • Agencies still rely on focus groups even though social media can give much better insight
  • Large agencies should leverage niche agencies as needed so they don’t have to become experts in everything, especially the latest and greatest technologies and social media services which may turn out to be high-impact, but short-lived. Are the big agencies willing to be partners with small, niche players?
  • Agencies need to gain new skills and become experts at sharing, helping and engaging. Related, the agency model, skills, and organizational structures probably need to change.
  • Active listening, a key part of participating in social media, requires empathy. Are agencies ready to be empathetic to their client’s customers?

Thanks to Hank Wasiak for hosting the chat.

Feel free to leave comments on my blog here if you disagree or want to defend your own agency.

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