Traditional Shops’ Digital Skills Deemed Unimpressive

Clients take a dim view despite agencies’ investment in talent and services

(ADWEEK) Traditional agencies are continuing to invest in digital talent and services but, based on a new survey from RSW/US, clients aren’t that impressed with the results.

Ask to rate their traditional agency’s digital skills on a scale of 1 to 10 — with 1 equating to “poor” and 10 meaning “excellent” — only 3 percent of the 277 client executives polled chose excellent, and almost half – 47 percent — ranked their shops between 1 and 5.

The finding in the latest study, “A Client’s Perspective on Agencies,” mirrored that of a September RSW/US report, which illustrated a disconnect between how clients and agencies view their skills in social media. In the previous report, less than half of the client respondents agreed that they are “cutting edge” in the use of social media, compared to more than three-quarters of the respondents from public relations agencies and two-thirds from ad agencies.

Based on both reports, agency rhetoric about digital skills appears to be ahead of reality, said Mark Sneider, president of RSW/US, a Cincinnati-based consultancy that helps agencies hone their new business development efforts.

“Simply doing social and digital, such as creating Facebook accounts and developing banner ads, isn’t going to be enough as marketers get hungrier for better direction — and results — in the digital/social world,” Sneider said. “The agency that can help clients understand how to use social/digital and how to integrate these [media] effectively into more traditional initiatives will, in the end, win the day.”

RSW/US’s latest survey also further quantifies the shift in client marketing dollars toward digital and away from traditional media. Ask what percentage of their total marketing spend has shifted from the traditional to digital realm in the past three years, 27 percent of the respondents said 30 percent and another 39 percent said anywhere between 40 and 90 percent.

And while many clients shifting to digital say it’s because they’re following the consumers, clearly they’re also looking to cut marketing costs. Ask how much of a factor cost was in their hiring of a digital shop in the past year, 56 percent said it was important to very important. Only 12 percent said it was not a factor at all.

The respondents came from some 200 companies, including Nestle, Pfizer, Kraft Foods, Colgate-Palmolive, Hilton and Harrah’s. The survey, which was conducted online in January, consisted of 23 questions.

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