Social Media Skills Are Generally Lacking

According to Brian Morrissey at Adweek, the agency business has miles to go before it sleeps.

TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony polled more than 60 marketers in North America, France and the U.K. to gauge how they are faring navigating the world of social media. It asked them feedback on their agencies’ abilities to help. TNS found, in its words, “Agencies don’t get it.”
Clients complained that their agencies — creative, media, public relations, design and others — typically treat social channels like blogs as traditional media. In other cases, their ideas are not backed up by practical skills in the area. What’s more, one client pointed out that his agencies have little of their own experience using social networks or video sharing sites for themselves.

The agency where I work has a MySpace page, YouTube page, Flickr page, a company blog, a robust extranet with massive user participation and we bring social media solutions to our clients. I understand BFG is different, but we’re not the only one.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. David – While I haven’t seen the TNS report, I am equally skeptical of their conclusion as you quote it. I just joined an agency that has a significant digital division and it is recognized and vocalized that digital is the core of the agency’s future. Social media is a big part of our strategy formulation for clients.
    Prior to my current agency, I worked for a smaller agency focused on tech B-to-B, clients $20 to $500 million in revenue. We incorporated social media in our campaigns there too. Furthermore, we researched and posted the top 50 niche social media sites and their power accounts on that agency blog. It is currently ranked 52 on Sphinns and has numerous trackbacks from prominent marketing social media sites.
    I agree with you in your post when you stated you weren’t the only one. I know numerous colleagues at many other agencies embracing and utilizing social media strategies and tactics in campaigns. Maybe TNS is talking to the wrong people at these agencies? Who exactly did they speak with?

  2. Hey,
    As I wrote in the article, Cymfony interviewed to 60 clients. In all the survey interviewed 71, but I asked them to take out the agencies and non-clients. TNS wouldn’t share the full list of clients, citing confidentiality, etc. But it quotes several of them for pretty big brands: H-P (“they need to show ho social media helped them further their own agenda”); Fila (“outside of placing media, they need to start dialogues with existing and potential customers”); Abbott (“there’s a disconnect between the overall approach and the tactics”); Fedex (“traditional agencies have very little contribution to make”); Suzuki (“existing marketing partners do not understand the ins and outs of the social media space”) and J&J (“they’re not doing a good job at all”). Jim Nail told me those included were a representative of the overall responses.

  3. Like all good things, it takes time for the word to get out.
    Two years in, and I’m still working hard to make sure my internal colleagues and our clients know about our social media practice.
    If people, inside or outside the agency, are not participants in social media, then “the word” doesn’t spread to them. And when it does reach then via real life WOM or an article in the Times, it sometimes doesn’t make much sense.