DIY Digital – Don’t Do It…

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The recent occurrence of a MediaTel conference entitled ‘Whose Job Is It Anyway’ made me think about the future role of agencies, and also the many clients who believe that do-it-yourself is a viable option when it comes to digital media content creation and management.

Inevitably for a forum sponsored by ITV and containing speakers from the big agencies, there was a lot of talk defending the creative power of the big boys and the budgets that go with them. Whilst I have a different perspective, having founded a boutique digital agency/consultancy that lowers the entry bar to primarily B2B clients, I do of course agree that a team of creative digital specialists will win out over in-house people. And the great news is, this can be affordable for a whole swathe of businesses to invest in, and profit from.

Fleet-footed Digital Businesses

One key question addressed at the event was: “Will the future be owned by nimble-footed service businesses who best foster partnerships and collaboration – or is it all down to scale?” I firmly believe it will be the former, and pure size will no longer win the day. Sure, if you are P&G you will want to hire a major agency and have the budget to do so – but if you are a niche company selling to other industries, you are definitely better served by a small, qualified, fast-moving team from a unit like Hannon Digital. And moreover, that choice will give you way better returns than if you try to manage your digital advertising and social media campaigns, your infographics and explainer videos, in-house.

So while I certainly do not agree with ITV’s Simon Dalglish that “branded content is crap”, I share his refusal to accept that anyone can create great content. He rightly quotes advertising titan Sir John Hegarty who has commented, “everyone can paint, but only some should exhibit”.

Does this matter in a world of algorithms, undifferentiated content and automated programmatic buying? Yes, I believe that it does. In fact there is a strong argument that creativity is due a renaissance.

The Creativity Comeback

Take the Google AdWords medium, as a major example. Having shifted the balance of search results towards advertised placements, Google has recently launched Expanded Text Ads (ETAs), which now allow significantly longer headings and body text. Gone are the single 25-character headline that cramped your style, and the two measly 35-character description lines.

Now you have a total of 140 characters (you may say that they are gunning for Twitter – I couldn’t possibly comment…) including two 30-character headlines and 80 characters of description. It’s mobile-friendly and when you create on it, AdWords shows you automatically how it will look on desktop and mobile.

We are already finding this a liberating move, allowing us to create far more convincing entries that generate better click-through rates. Right now you can steal a march on the huge number of slow-moving, often DIY competitors who have not moved to take advantage of the upgrade – but early next year Google will phase out the old format and will require you to transition to new ETAs. If this process worries you, or you feel you are not equipped to take advantage of it, let’s talk.

And then there are Display Ads. You should not be hidebound by the text-only ad formats, even in their new expanded form. You can also have creatively-prepared still images and explainer videos that appear in your ads on a variety of news sites, mobile sites and others that are relevant to your business and your potential customers.

Finally, what about Infographics, the fastest-growing medium on the net? The majority of people, including B2B buyers when surveyed, declare themselves to prefer to receive information from visual imagery than from text alone. Studies show that people learn better this way. We have a dedicated unit producing excellent-quality infographics that condense clients’ messages to attractive blocks of visual data – at a fraction of the cost charged by major agencies.

To sum up, the still-young digital world is growing up and entering an adult phase where it is becoming richer and more artistic. Those who live by bits of data alone will not thrive as well as they have done in the early days. Successful and award-winning advertising will be interactive and deeply immersive – and digital.

Colm Hannon is the founder and CEO of Hannon Digital in London