agency-web-developmentWhen I started in this business I loaded files onto a zip drive. During my first six months I stood on the sidelines watching as other designers and art directors created ads for the agency client roster. As a rookie, I had to pay my dues. Checking files, flight checking, loading fonts, making sure all files were secure and sent to the right media outlets, predominately newspaper and magazine. How important I thought I was. How secure I thought my job was. Within a year something called a PDF was developed and I had to adapt quickly to this new technology. Just like the PDF, technology is making jobs easier and faster with less manpower and wage.

Traditional agencies find themselves at a crossroad. Some believe they can hold on to the reality that print is still relevant as a leading media outlet. That billboards can bring brand awareness better than a social media outlet. Others have made the quintessential leap to over promising and under delivering, or in this case under developing. It is amazing to think how many projects my team has worked on in the past year that were for another agency that professed to their clients that they can “do digital.”

We live in a world where websites, microsites, banners and eblasts are part of a traditional campaign. Where anyone that owns a MacBook Pro can consider himself or herself an agency. When exactly the opposite is true. Understanding the development and design business is not a quick fix or something that Vista Print can get to you in two days.

Long gone are the days of “winging it” or “improvisational ad rhetoric.” You actually have to understand what your selling, developing and the costly time that should be considered when attempting this new landscape. As websites and microsites fade to interactive brochures, on the horizon lies a new digital arena. Make way for the application. Whether it’s a web app, hybrid app or native app, it seems every shop offers these services now. Creative and art director titles have switched to usability designer or user experience director.

It is frustrating to shops like mine that make digital its business focus. To see other shops just add digital to their website services without understanding all that digital encompasses can be harmful to both the client and the agency.

Developers are also seeing the dollar signs with their god-given talents to write code as fast as we update our Facebook statuses. Which brings us to the nuts and bolts of this argument. Understanding what you are offering to clients is key to beginning a new silo at your agency. Hire key people that understand the online business and the many development languages that exist. Sadly, we are seeing a detachment from the standard employee that is the Developer.

Today, like right now, time might be running out. We are living in a time where the developers mindset is to stop making money for someone else. They realize the power of their analytical minds and the monetary value it could solicit. Our agency gives our developers what they want, they are involved in every step of the process, and, in fact, our own employees price out bids and proposals. This might seem foreign to older agency business models, but I assure you it is very much the now. It’s not about who makes what and what makes what. It is about the respect for their trade and the ability they produce to make the end product a success for both your clients and your agency as a whole.

I have consulted and put together teams for full service agencies. I have seen a growing trend to make digital a separate group altogether. Even in pitches there are two separate budgets. It is in itself another business and should be considered as such with more traditional agencies. As a digital agency owner, what works for me might not work for you. My team works where they feel truly inspired, whether they want to live on the East coast, the West coast and now in the Midwest. But what works for my team works most definitely for my clients. Adapting these strategies to your digital team will yield great results, allowing you to create true digital solutions with the support of your developers.

Read Part I of Developing a Language with Developers.

Originally published May 21, 2012 1:00:15 AM, updated June 28 2019