Guest Article: Priya Singh Sarin: The digital one-night stand

By Priya Singh Sarin , Urja Interactive, Mumbai | In Digital | December 03, 2010
Digital agencies, as well as clients and their brands, would benefit from looking at long-term engagements, rather than one-off projects.

We've often talked about digital being a last minute add-on to the communication strategy, a quick adaptation of the brand message in offline media.

Here's another not so pretty truth: most digital agencies are also a last minute add-on to execute a specific project. This is especially true in the case of large clients with multiple products and a roster of agencies. While the ATL agencies own the brand; the various promotions, contests and other initiatives planned around the brand are often outsourced as one-off projects to digital hot-shops for extension into digital media.

Even if you assume that a fabulous brief has been developed for such one-off projects, which captures the ethos of the brand along with the context and objectives, the digital creatives working on the brand will, in all likelihood, look at it as a one-night stand. They will only focus on what they need to know for that specific project. They most definitely will not refer, much less try to understand, previously done advertising and the larger context of the communication.

Isn't it obvious, then, that marketers do their brands a great disservice by not letting the digital agency develop a deep relationship with their brand?

When it comes to developing websites, it's even more essential for the digital agency to be completely familiar with the company, its products and competitors, its customers and their habits, and of course, how they interact with the brand online. This familiarity does not happen overnight, or even over a few PowerPoint presentations. This is the kind of knowledge that seeps in, when you're working on a brand for a reasonable length of time.

Years ago, when I was working on the launch of a certain brand of juices, I could rattle off the exact ingredients in every variant of the juice. And even now, years later, I can spot even the minute change in the pack copy of that particular brand, and what it means in the context of food labelling regulations in our country. This is the kind of intimacy advertising creatives working on any brand develop over time.

Working on a large website project should also give the creative team a similar depth of knowledge of the industry, products and competition; but unfortunately, very few website projects allow for that kind of time. However, a digitally evolved client will create space for this type of engagement with the brand, as well as research and knowledge building. And this will reflect on the messaging and product sell that happens on the website, once it is created.

That's why digital agencies, which are in the game for the long run, strive to win retainer-ships rather than one-off projects. Smart clients need to get over their commitment phobia and meet them halfway.

(The author is creative head at Urja Interactive.)