Agency Digital Strategist: What's Next?

Mary Beth Kemp

Let’s say you're a traditional agency who gets it.   Depending on the size of your shop, you’ve probably hired one or more digital strategists who are bringing new technologies into both agency culture and clients’ business. 

What happens to these guys later? 

That was the question framed by an agency leader on a call I had earlier this week.  “What is the career track for the digital strategists at my agency?”


No, it’s not as bad as it sounds.  But if digital strategists do their job correctly, they should do themselves out of that job.  My reasoning:  once digital is firmly entwined in an agency’s approach and thinking, that role of cheerleading digital shouldn't be neccessary. Three years from now, if one guy is pulling an 'integrated' agency’s digital offer, it sounds to me like a road half-traveled.

The career path for a digital strategist should be a senior agency role, in planning, client management…ideally with a portfolio of clients who are early technology adopters.   But their game shouldn’t stop with digital.  They and their teams should manage the whole media mix.

So the bottom line is, digital strategists should become as integrated as the rest of us. 



re: Agency Digital Strategist: What's Next?

Great post. That's definitely the way it will evolve. Digital Strategy is a bit of a black box at many agencies and having evangelists who can educate and enlighten internally and sell it in to clients is very important....for now.I'm just glad I've got my 18 years of "traditional" PR to fall back on once all this new fangled digital stuff becomes second nature to everyone in a few years. ;)

re: Agency Digital Strategist: What's Next?

Thanks David.I'm curious. What's your agency doing to help make the digital stuff second nature?

re: Agency Digital Strategist: What's Next?

You definitely got this right. Once agencies realize that "digital" is not so much about adding new media channels, but rather thinking differently about media as a whole--they are well on their way to sound web strategies. As a web strategy consultant for advertising agencies ( I try to help agencies accelerate this process. It's great fun to be there as the lights go on and they begin to see the great potential of digital marketing and web strategy.Thanks, Mary Beth, for leading the way with your attention and analysis during this critical season of agency transition.

re: Agency Digital Strategist: What's Next?

"So the bottom line is, digital strategists should become as integrated as the rest of us."OK name me ONE 'integrated strategist' that is as good in the non digital as they are digital and I'll eat my Mac Book Pro. They don't exist. You have a point, and yes anyone doing strategy on either side of the line should have an appreciation and understanding of integration, however specialists will always have a place, otherwise you just end up with a bunch of masters of none that aren't particularly good at either.

re: Agency Digital Strategist: What's Next?

Nathan -Today not many/any integrated strategists exist -that's the point. But ultimately they should. Again, if in 3 - 5 years digital is still a silo, there's a problem.I'm calling for two things here - 1) for agencies to tap and develop leadership among today's digital strategists; 2) for today's digital strategists to take a larger role if that's what they want.BTW, I wouldn't eat my MBP until they finally come out with the new ones.

re: Agency Digital Strategist: What's Next?

hmmm it's your last line that still bugs me. I get what you are saying and agree, but the thing is Digital strategists ARE already the most integrated strategists (I have come across). Why? Because all marcomms point to the Internet. We got that years ago. I think if you reverse the sentence to 'the rest of us need to become as integrated as digital startegits' then we'd be getting somewhere!

re: Agency Digital Strategist: What's Next?

I do agree with the general thought behind this post. But kudos to the post above. I consider myself an "interactive" strategist. Channel agnostic. It just so happens that digital seems to be the optimal channel for interactive marketing. Yes I have to do a lot of cheerleading for digital within my agency and within client accounts. But, we know that most people still search for information by brand terms. They had to gain awareness of that brand somehow. Digital can't exist in a vaccum. I had a very senior account person tell once he felt he was being passed by. I said, "the basic principles of marketing will always be necessary, you should embrace this new channel. Think of all the measurable intelligence you have access to now. You don't have know all the geek part of it, just know now its about delivering relevant messages on the customers terms. Now it's marketing one to one.