Creative Agencies in Seattle Must Evolve

Featured on the Puget Sound Business Journal:

There is a sea of change happening in Seattle and no one wants to be left behind.

Read the published PSBJ article

While all brands from family-owned small businesses to commercial operators transform to digital-first models, local tech giants, startups and agencies are building a digital marketing hub in the region. This transformation leaves advertising and marketing agencies scrambling to advance their talent and capabilities before they miss the boat.

Agencies that don’t boost their capabilities, invest in their roster of talent and build collaborative and effective partnerships, risk losing business and even relevancy, especially as companies gravitate toward building in-house teams to execute their marketing visions.

The largest digital consultancy in the world, Accenture Interactive, opened an Innovation Hub here in 2018, adding 300 hundred new technology jobs in Seattle. Meanwhile, the Amazon marketplace has driven an emergence of specialist agencies in Seattle.

Amazon Advertising has 36 official partners for digital marketing services. Three are headquartered in Seattle, Ideoclick, Content26 and Orca Pacific, and 12 have an office in the city. These firms are leveraging their proximity to the e-commerce giant to attract clients, strengthen their relationship with Amazon and recruit local talent. Investors are also noticing a bevy of new startups in the region, like Downstream, that build software to help venders, sellers and agencies improve their Amazon ad campaigns. We can expect more local growth in this space, as Amazon’s ad platform continues to accelerate within the industry.

At the same time, Microsoft is showing no signs of abating investments in building and purchasing new tools to bolster digital marketing offerings for its customers and its own company use.

Microsoft-owned LinkedIn recently purchased a startup called Drawbridge that uses artificial intelligence to deliver better insights about customers and target audiences. LinkedIn plans to incorporate Drawbridge technology into its ad platform that’s already growing at a 46 percent year-over-year rate, nearly double the rest of its social platform business.

Microsoft is also building innovative search ad capabilities for Bing in an effort to lure Google’s customers, including 3D product previews and richer built-in video ad features.

So, what does this all mean for local agencies?

Agencies need to create new capabilities to meet the demands of the digital-first industry and specialized offerings from top ad giants Google, Facebook and now Amazon. It’s no longer enough to say you have digital experience. Companies are undergoing full digital transformations and agencies must now incorporate digital strategies into everything they do.

Firms should invest in both finding and nurturing the best talent, even if it means at a premium cost. With a broad shortage of digital marketing professionals, they must be continuously scouting talent as well as training, challenging and rewarding their teams to surpass client objectives.

Agencies need to also increase their speed of innovation and become change agents. They must outpace their clients by acting upon emerging marketing trends, leading by testing and experimenting and piloting new offerings that deliver tangible performance and return on investment.

If Seattle advertising and marketing firms can innovate over the long-term, we will put the region on the map once again. First for airplanes, then for software, e-commerce and cloud technologies. Now as a digital marketing hub that decides where the industry goes next.

By: Bruno Gralpois, Co-Founder & Principal | December 10, 2019