Demystifying the Interactive Agency

I was recently in the midst of a tremendous opportunity here at work – I was tasked with the redesign of our organization’s website and the whole process really opened my eyes to the wide spectrum of what an interactive agency really is. First of all, there is no such agency. In my mind, an agency is a sort of one-stop shop for all your communication needs, specific to their core competencies. Sure, there are a few of them that exist, but these days a lot of companies are becoming specialized and focusing on what they can do the best. Unfortunately in this capitalistic society we live in, the market dictates that soon when two firms, each with their own strengths, work together and become successful, the probability of a merger increases with each growing moment.

Well why should that be the case? If you do merge, while there is the whole benefit of having a technical, creative, and project management shop in-house that you can sell to other folks, wouldn’t it be prudent to be able to farm out individual projects that you go after? Now, to play devil’s advocate, it’s nice to have a traditional interactive agency too because if something goes wrong down the road OR if you want additional work done, you know who to go with instead of talking to the integrator and hoping that they can still work with the development team that originally worked on your site…it could get a little messy…

If you pitch for certain business and you got the whole interactive agency approach, you’re basically telling a client that if they select you, they’ll be “stuck” with your tech team, creative team, and account management team. Right now it’s a 50-50 take on whether companies want that. However, it appears that there is a growing number of companies that may want to switch up and find what I’ve heard referred to as “best of breed”. What exactly is this “best of breed”? Well it’s exactly what I talked about earlier. You find a strong creative team, a proficient technical team, and you merge the two sides (as they’re different companies) and come together to pitch a business. You’re not forming a new company, but you’re outsourcing the project to several companies – they’re becoming your subcontractors, so to speak.

Either way, the work will be done, but this way will allow you to become what some may term as being “technology agnostic”. If you form a partnership with several tech teams, you’ll be able to find what is best suited for your clients. So you have a client that wants a PHP CMS, then you choose company A, but if they want .NET, you can easily go to company B, or if they want .NET AND PHP, you can ask Company C (because A and B are only strong in their own respective languages). These interactive agencies no longer are under one roof, but rather a loose alliance with just a hearty handshake, a legally-binding work contract, and knowledge that each party knows what the hell they’re doing and making it work well together.

Being in the service industry is a great rush and tons of fun…I’ve been there…both on the client and agency side. I’d love to work with an interactive agency, but when it comes to business goals, would it be financially feasible to go with a company that tries to push a certain product on you and have it cost more to customize it in the long-run? Obviously it depends on the scenario and your own idiosyncrasies…listen to each individual pitch when they’re giving you their agency presentations. Some may make stronger cases, but if you hear someone that talks about “best of breed”, make sure your ears perk up and take note.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently Flipboard's Assistant Managing Editor, overseeing news curation in technology, science, gaming and health. In addition to his day job, Ken's the co-host of "The Created Economy" podcast, examining the Creator Economy. In a past life, he was a former reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding.