Internet Marketing will disruptively re-invent the Kenyan Ad Agency (Part Two).
In the first part of this post, I was basically trying to describe what I see as the current status quo that the typical Kenyan Ad Agency is in the context of Internet Marketing. Basically, its not a pretty picture, but not totally bleak. Going forward, the way I see it, the Kenyan Ad Agency can follow any of the three routes below, each with its pros and cons:
The build route may seem attractive to the larger Ad Agencies in Kenya since it gives them 100% control. This would basically involve setting up either an internal department or a separate Digital Agency for the explicit task of offering Internet Marketing to the existing client roster. This route is quite expensive as it involves actually starting from scratch and recruiting an entire team, hoping that they will somehow “make it work”. Considering the substantive resources that the big Ad Agencies in Kenya have, this is possible.
Big Ad Agencies also have the benefit of acquiring the rights for a Digital Agency through their global networks which would give them the business model and underlying systems, turnkey. It would also probably involve “poaching” employees from existing Digital Agencies in the marketplace, luring them with attractive packages to move over so that they can hit the ground running.
However, there is something that makes a Digital Agency tick, its not just about the money or hiring talented team members, it has to gel and work like clockwork. This sort of chemistry is not easily achieved and considering the large investment required to build a new Digital Agency or department, it can fail or succeed spectacularly. It really is stepping into the unknown for the Ad Agency.
The buy option, in my opinion, makes more sense than the build option. The reason is that an existing Digital Agency is already operational and has clients – its less expensive than starting from scratch. At the same time, the work processes have presumably been worked out, as has the team structure and other operational functions. Therefore, as a result, you could think of it as a working system that just needs to be “plugged” into, or, complement the Ad Agency’s offerings to its existing client base.
However, the big risk here is that even it works, there could be serious cultural and operational issues between the Ad Agency and the Digital Agency. I can say from first-hand experience that Ad Agencies work very differently from your typical Digital Agency in Kenya, or globally for that matter. Ad Agencies generally serve a limited client base and use the account management model to service and retain their clients – they don’t jump across clients in the same sector as a Digital Agency would do. The reason for this is simple, Digital Agencies generally have much smaller project-based billings than the retainer-based billings that Ad Agencies are accustomed to, and keep them comfortably in business.
Digital Agencies are also generally staffed by teams who are highly technical, as the work demands, whereas Ad Agencies are staffed by teams who excel at branding and marketing-speak. And therein lies the problem, they simply don’t understand each other and this can lead to long running feuds and tensions across the board. However, its not impossible to make the buy option work as globally this is quite routinely done by Ad Agencies.
The outsourcing of Internet Marketing work by Ad Agencies to Digital Agencies or Freelancers in Kenya is not unheard of and is practiced on a case by case basis. I also know for a fact that its the least expensive and most practical route for any Ad Agency to take since there is no direct investment in ownership and an outsourcing strategic partnership can be managed on a project by project basis. However, like the buy option, outsourcing has its caveat in that cultural and operational issues can become a nightmare if they are not well managed.
Once again, like in the buy option, teams across the divide may as well as live on two different planets as far as their respective understanding of Internet Marketing is concerned. The other inherent risk is that Freelancers and Digital Agencies in Kenya have had a notorious reputation for not being able to deliver as per brief and client requirements – I know of this first hand.
However, the key benefit is that if an outsourcing partner is unreliable then the Ad Agency can move on to the next with limited damage in the process. Its also important for the Ad Agency and the Freelancer and/or Digital Agency to invest as much time as possible educating each other on what they do so that misunderstandings can be kept to a bare minimum.
So, in a nutshell, thats it. In order to become competent and able to deliver Internet Marketing offerings, the Kenyan Ad Agency can either build in-house capacity, buy a Digital Agency or outsource work to a Digital Agency and/or Freelancers. Every Ad Agency has its own agenda for the future so its likely we will see anyone of these options being employed in the coming years. However, at the end of the day, its not a matter of if but rather when Internet Marketing will become a core part of the offerings that the Kenyan Ad Agency will be expected to deliver on a regular basis.