Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Generation

An industry friend, who runs his own digital agency, recently mused that 'old-school is the only school'. What he was referring to was the ongoing debate about the relative merits of 'traditional' and 'digital' agencies. What he meant was that, whatever the media in which you execute, the fundamental questions of a clients' business, brand, audience, and communication, are a constant of brand leadership.

Ana Andjelic stirred up a hornet's nest on Ad Age today by suggesting that the 'traditional' agencies had this down better than the 'digital' agencies.

While Ana may have more brains than tact, she certainly hit a spot with plenty of angry wasps. And that's significant in itself. So I hope she's not feeling too stung by the angry response. Controversy boosts Ad Age's opage views, after all...

Thing is, from my own first-hand experience of working with shops of many different ages, sizes, hues, disciplines, I agree with her central generalized thesis. Under fire, she clarified it thus:
Digital firms: Great at figuring new stuff out. What they are not good at is old knowledge, simply because they don't have it.

Traditional firms: A lot of old knowledge, some of which is still very relevant and useful. What they are not so good at is gathering the new knowledge.

The main problem with this debate is some fuzzy wording, so for argument I'll define 'old knowledge' to be those fundamental questions of a clients' business, brand, audience, and communication that we outlined above. Not to mention the skills of developing and keeping client relationships. If, like me, you're already identifying the exceptions to Ana's generalizations, you may grudgingly recognize some truth to it as well.

The old and wise have always criticized the young. And the young have always despised the prospect of Age. But eventually the young become old. Perhaps that will be the only real resolution to this debate :)

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