Image: Courtesy of farm4.static

I remember the glory days of working for a digital agency: We got the technology. We had a quarter of an ounce of an understanding how changes in technology would impact our lives. (And only got 0.1%). We talked about SEO, we talked about SEM, we developed Rich Media ads, included Behavioral Targeting. These traditional guys just didn’t get it with their TV obsession and focus on print ads. And, a few years later, we walk into a client meeting, explaining the average CTR of 0.15% (Hey, better than industry benchmark!) and the client looks at us and their stare says: “You know, you were selling me a bill of goods all along. And I thought you were the guys that got it.”

Kristi VandenBosch from Hal Riney spoke at her keynote at ad:tech about the difference between traditional and digital agencies. Traditional agencies think in objects, digital agencies in systems. I would argue, most agencies (no matter traditional or digital) primarily think in objects and regard systems as an afterthought. That’s why the majority of agencies have problems delivering a real social experience. Instead, they build giganormous websites, intrinsic banner ads and buy Facebook fans for their clients. And, nobody cares. (Oh, 0.1% clickers care. Supposedly.)

I have seen numerous banner ads and none of them created an emotional connection. Compare that non-emotional connection to the ad below. I still remember how I felt when I saw it the first time.

The medium has changed and it’s still evolving. The Hub and Spoke model has been replaced with the networked model, technology enabled people to return to their social roots and behave like humans again. Clearly, we have to understand technology and how it’s changing and evolving. But the digital part is not enough.

We have to understand people. How human behavior is changing. When it is appropriate to show up, how we should show up, what makes brands interesting and relevant to people. And when brands should retreat. And just be quiet.

That’s not a new thing. Good agencies always tried to understand human behavior. They always tried to find ideas that connect brands with people in a human way. Very soon in the future, traditional and digital agencies will disappear. The term “advertising agency” might even disappear. At the minimum, the good advertising agencies won’t do a lot of advertising anymore. Their real value will be delivered outside of advertising.

And the real success stories will be human agencies. Basing their strategies and tactics on human behavior, human insights, human desires and needs. Human agencies will help companies and brands to behave like humans, with their own authentic story and a clear sense of purpose. Only a clear sense of purpose is the key to driving sustainable commercial success. And develop sustainable relationships between brands and humans.