Digital Knights Profiled In Sunday Glossy

The New York Times Magazine conducted a fireside chat with three of digital marketing’s poster boys—Lars Bastholm of AKQA; Benjamin Palmer of Barbarian Group; and Robert Rasmussen of R/GA.
Jack Hitt, who leads the discussion for the Times wonders if these guys (and other like them) are “potentially presiding over the dissolution of our business, like everybody else in the media.” Here’s the group’s response:

Bastholm: At my company, we’re starting to redefine ourselves from being an ad agency to being an entertainment and technology company. Because that’s basically what we do; we deliver branded entertainment of various sorts through a number of different technological channels. You used to have this monolithic structure where your output was 30-second spots that cost an increasing amount of money to make, and it cost more and more money to put them on TV. That massive money machine is probably going to go away, but I think the money spent on all these different channels, at the end of the day, will probably be equal to what used to be spent on TV spots.
Palmer: I’m not sure it all equals out. I think that for people in the marketing industry, it’s objectively more difficult to get the same results or make the same amount of money as you did before.
Bastholm: Trevor Edwards, Nike’s main marketing guy, had a great quote. He said, “Nike’s not in the business of keeping media companies alive, we’re in the business of connecting with consumers.” That sums up digital pretty nicely.
Rasmussen: Clients are not saying, “Make us ads” or “Make us Web sites,” they’re saying, “Create interaction between our brand and our customers.” That’s our job now.

In response to Bastholm’s claim, Brian Morrissey of Adweek wants to know “what’s so bad about being an agency?” Nothing. If you serve clients with any form of marketing communication, you’re an agency, by definition. But it’s fun to remake ourselves every so often and this is one of those times. I mean Lee Clow doesn’t even work for an “agency” any longer. He works in a Media Lab.



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.