Creative Agency vs Digital Agency – a Dichotomy of the Past?

Written by
Mads Krogh Petersen
Creative Agency vs Digital Agency – a Dichotomy of the Past?

Creative Agency vs Digital Agency – a dichotomy of the past

The Creative Agency’s raison d’être has always been to translate deep human, cultural and market insights into a value proposition and campaign concept, often comprised of – at the most basic level – a key visual and tag line. A successful campaign uniquely and relevantly fuses the essence of the brand with the product benefits and expresses them in a resonant and compelling manner. Any communication and activation should ladder up from this work.

The Digital Agency has historically been requested to subsequently produce the associated digital properties and assets including the website, banners, emails, the app, repurposing content authored and closely directed by the Creative Agency.  

Roles and responsibilities

But roles and responsibilities are all in flux. Taking the pharmaceutical industry as our industry lens, examples include:

  • As HCPs and Patients spend more time online than off the grid, the data required for generating the insights necessary for a world class Creative Strategy needs to be gathered across the digital ecosystem and curated by a team with extensive digital competencies and experience. The team carrying out the digital study gets a unique understanding and firsthand window into the (digital) life of the target audiences, competitive situation and beyond. As a case in point, at Vertic our “Digital” Insights team constitutes our biggest team.
  • Persona definition & Customer Journey mapping devoid of digitally derived insights or digital channel insights, do not allow the brand to understand how to efficiently inject itself into the reality of our contemporary world. As an example, the evolution of trust of HCPs and Patient towards the pharmaceutical company and how it should translate into the channel strategy, e.g. third party HCP portals and collaboration with patient association, drives messaging at its core.
  • If the Medium is the Message (still?) and provided our inherently digital lives, the message and value proposition at the core of the Creative Agency’s work cannot and should not be detached from, but rather pollinated by the nature of the digital channels. As obvious examples, how much the short-form social format – think Twitter and a famous election - or the democratization of video production and publishing have influenced the “message” cannot be over emphasized? Specifically, as regards videos, the use of self-recorded videos by Key Opinion Leaders is certainly hitherto unchartered territory in terms of co-creation of content and messages.

Thus, at a point before the intense digitalization of society there was a logic to a mostly sequential flow where the Creative Agency did its thing and then handed over their work. Then, the Digital Agency started producing for digital. But now, it should be a back-and-forth, cyclical flow where different competencies need to work together interchangeably and flexibly across the project and work streams.

Another categorization of agencies?

In fact, the tags “Creative Agency” and “Digital Agency” have lost their meaning as mutually exclusive terms. Rather this categorization sometimes comes in the way of clearly understanding the key competencies necessary to solve the required tasks to efficiently create a multi channel launch of a product into the market. You may choose a portfolio of agencies to ascertain coverage across all relevant competencies, however competencies do not have a natural separation that align with Creative vs Digital.

As a case in point, Vertic is typically bucketed as a Digital Agency. And we most often bucket ourselves as a Digital Agency. Why? Because that is what our potential clients are looking for. They are used to buying from a Digital Agency and a Creative Agency respectively. Also, procurement will tend to use this categorization when qualifying agencies to service a given pharmaceutical company. And as a smaller player in a market, we necessarily supply according to the expressed demand.

Working with this categorization also allows for parallel tracks with several agencies enjoying the associated risk mitigation. It also allows the company to quell the potential dissatisfaction of the Creative Agency of a potential competitor entering the company.

A Digital Agency should optimally be "creative" and a Creative Agency "digital". At Vertic, we employ creative directors with Cannes awards under their belts who serve on prestigious creative awards juries throughout the globe. Thus, in Vertic’s experience, a focus on digital channels has not been a hindrance to Vertic’s ability to devise highly creative campaigns from scratch – or more often, from our own research efforts. So we create taglines, devise visual directions, run photoshoots and complex video productions. In short, what makes Vertic ”digital” is our channel focus, not any lack of ability to carry out significant creative heavy lifting. Even with this focus however, our starting point and that of the traditional Creative Agency is often the same: a value proposition, a concept, a tag line, a key visual. Thus, even as a Digital Agency we are fully equipped to being the originator and steward of these assets for expression via digital channels or via print, by a traditional agency.

All in flux

Below is a high level description of the tasks divided according to a classic separation between the Creative Agency and the Digital Agency. At Vertic, we most often do the tasks in "red" and "black", and with select clients, the tasks in the Creative Agency bucket.

Tasks in developing a multi channel campaign in the pharmaceutical industry combined with a conventional agency taxonomy

But it is all in flux, and stereotyping agencies via a historical taxonomy is potentially compromising your multi channel product launch campaign.

At Vertic, we believe that the relationship between agency and company should be mutually rewarding, based on deep insight of each other needs - that is with zero degree of separation - and optimally, life long. Agency and company skills and needs are required to change on an ongoing basis- beyond tags and categorizations - thereby ensuring longevity and constant value exchange. It is what we call Share of Life®.

Sincerely Mads

Founder of the Digital Agency?, Vertic

Written by

Mads Krogh Petersen

President and Co-Founder

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