Creative Shops Move Into Media

Digital shops with their roots in creative are increasingly moving into the media game, in an attempt to capitalize on what they view as the outdated model of major media agencies.

San Francisco-based Traction recently launched a media practice, following the lead of players like AKQA, which has built up a 100-person media practice over the years. The bet is becoming a familiar one: These shops can move faster unencumbered by legacy models.

“A president of a media agency recently told me he has 75 people working for him and that only six of them provide value,” said Traction CEO Adam Kleinberg. “He said he’d like to have just those six people working for him but that his company is too invested in its structure. We want to build a model focused on value, not bodies.”

According to Kleinberg, major agencies are confined by the teams, tools, processes and contracts that they’ve invested in. That, in turn, can stifle their ability to capitalize on emerging media opportunities. The world’s largest brands aren’t about to tap Traction to plan their media, but for smaller clients, there are advantages to bringing media closer to creative. In fact, Traction was losing work because prospective clients wanted their media and creative under one roof.

“Ideas today are only as good as their execution,” Kleinberg added. “You need to have creatives and media people thinking as a single team.”

As online advertising begins to move away from a machine-gun banner ad approach and toward more content-focused and “native” ad experiences, the scale piece becomes less important in buying media. There are far more opportunities now, many creative and digital agencies say, and they think they’re better equipped than big media agencies to take advantage of that fact.

AKQA, for its part, has been growing in-house media practices that aim to take advantage of their proximity to clients’ creative and technology. Collaboration between agencies is nice in theory, they say, but when it comes to things like first-party data and using data to inform creative, it’s just easier to have everything under one roof. AKQA media managing direct Scott Symonds says its deep knowledge of clients’ technology helps it sell its media offering to clients.

Back at Traction, Kleinberg says even having simple things like site tagging strategies handled under the same roof as media can have a surprising effect on a client’s business. It’s about “baking media into everything,” he said.

AKQA’s media team currently stands at over 100 people, and it has doubled in the last two years. Former AKQA media director Abraham Snyder will head up Traction’s new media offering, which he’ll grow slowly based on demand. Kleinberg estimates the company will bring on six to eight media-centric staffers in the next year.
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