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Digitas exec: Brand interest grows in holistic approach to mobile

NEW YORK?A DigitasLBi executive at Mobile Marketer's Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2014 conference said that mobile is making the need for an agency more crucial than ever for brands to align the fragmented medium under one holistic strategy.

During the ?Ad Agencies: Defining Their Role in a Rapidly Evolving Mobile-Influenced Advertising and Marketing Environment? session on Wednesday, executives from DigitasLBi, R/GA and Razorfish discussed the role ad agencies play in helping brands develop a mobile strategy. The panel was moderated by Scott Townsend, director of marketing at Urban Airship, Portland, OR.

?One of the things that?s emerging in the last 6 to 9 months or so is our clients asking us, ?OK we?ve done a lot of mobile tactics, Web sites, native apps, mobile advertising, now how do we actually pivot to making mobile the core of what we do, building these experiences around how mobile?s changed the way consumers behave,? said Chia Chen, senior vice president of North American mobile lead at DigitasLBi, New York.

?How do we really do mobile-first marketing,? he said. ?That?s been a key area of focus for us over the last six months or so. It?s not really about channels, it?s about consumer expectations.?

Holistic approach
All of the executives on the panel agreed that agencies can help brands view mobile in a more holistic way as opposed to merely rolling out a project such as making a mobile-optimized site.

?Mobile brings in a better focus why agencies are needed,? Mr. Chen said. ?It?s because we have a leg in both worlds.

?We know the client?s business very well but we also bring third-party viewpoint,? he said. ?We also have specific initiatives to connect with the startup community with innovation.

?We?re able to bring that in a very focused way to our clients. A large part of [CES] was around connecting our clients? focus with the technologies and figuring out the implications for their brands. Mobile returns a strategic role to the agency that was dissipating a little bit.?

Brands in general are moving from thinking about mobile on its own towards integrating it into a complete cross-channel strategy.

Ad agencies are in the prime position to strategize by merging the brand?s goals with the new technology and channels.

?Our clients are asking us to help them think about mobile as a part of their service,? said Patrick Frend, president of Razorfish, New York. ?We?re having conversations around what does being in your consumers' pocket mean. What does it mean in terms of shaping that relationship??

Pushing mobile
One of the challenges that the agencies are seeing is overcoming the organizational fragmentation of brands to create change.

?One of the biggest challenges that we?re seeing is the industrial mechanism of marketing has been set up well to work in silos,? Mr. Frend said. ?You have the digital department, PR, social, and in today?s world you really can?t separate all those things. Events are digital and social.

?I think the biggest challenge in moving forward is reorganizing organizations without creating chaos,? he said.

It is also difficult for clients to go back and relay the messages from agencies to convince the chief executives to go through with mobile plans.

Richard Ting, executive vice president and global executive creative director at R/GA, New York, believes that clients could benefit from having a mobile specialist on their side to better transmit the agency?s ideas back to the brand.

?There are nuances,? he said. ?Sometimes what we?re pitching back might get lost in translation if there?s not a counterpart on their side.?

At the end of the day though, a lot of it comes down to timing. Some of the best ideas in mobile simply get passed on because of the time of year and the business?s goals at one specific time.

For instance, DigitasLBi's Mr. Chen remembers pitching an idea similar to Uber to a company four years ago, and the idea went incredibly far in the process of launching it, so much so that an app was basically ready to go public. At the last minute though, the client backed out because they were not sure that it was the best move for them.

Brands tend to want to be the first in their industry to roll out a new program, but they also want to know that it will work ahead of time. This is a tough balance to meet.

?Timing has a lot to do with it,? Mr. Chen said. ?Most big brands, they want to know that something?s worked before they try it.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York