Promises made, promises kept

It's been fascinating learning about the Sydney agency landscape since arriving here in December. There aren't too many large digital agencies here compared with back in London, and advertising agencies tend to dominate the scene, both in terms of revenue and client contact. However, as elsewhere, advertising revenue is falling, and marketers are united in seeing digital as an important part of the solution.

There's agreement on the 'what', but mixed consensus on the 'how'.

Some advertising agencies see digital simply as another way to advertise, albeit with a few interactive features. They treat digital disciplines as subservient to the advertising process, led by creatives and planners who don't necessarily have a digital heritage. Digital may even be treated simply as a production activity, where those who truly understand digital may be isolated from the planning process altogether.

Fortunately, others recognise that this is an unsustainable approach, which misses the huge potential that customers now expect from their vendors, and that vendors, in turn, look for from their agencies. For a while now we've been living in a world where the customer calls the shots. If you don't deliver what customers expect, they'll tell everyone they know on Twitter or Facebook right there and then. Providing an exemplar service to customers is not only more complicated than it used to be, but more important as well - and that's where the focus and budgets are switching.

The role of advertising has to evolve in this changing marketing landscape. To stay effective, it requires meaningful integration between promises made and promises kept. Digital solutions fit in both camps (sometimes, as with social media, at the same time). Thinking has to be integrated across the full spectrum of communications through the line and across the board, from advertising to social media activity, from websites to interactive displays, from open data to call centres, from mobile to content strategy, and more. An integrated strategic approach has never been more important.

For some companies and agencies, this will be difficult or maybe even impossible. But for those vendors who recognise the relationship with their customer has already changed, and have the nerve to restructure and prioritise accordingly, the future is theirs to own.