The End of the Digital Agency?

here has been a lot of scaremongering going on recently about the ‘inevitable decline’ of specialist social media and digital marketing agencies. But the digital agency landscape is very complex. It’s time to look at the logic behind the doom-and-gloom assertions and find out what is really going on.

How the Argument Started

SXSW is an annual get-together of creative and technical minds held in Austin, Texas. Among the attendees you will find technologists, journalists, investors, inventors, artists, musicians, film-makers and generally creative and entrepreneurial people. That has for a long time included the ‘digerati’ of agency marketers.

However, at last year’s SXSW event, many people were a little flummoxed by the presence of digital agency marketers. There seems to have been a surge in the use of in-house skills among high-growth start-ups and brands recently, making digital agencies seem a little redundant. The resounding question: Do we need these agencies anymore?

The Icarus Complex

Often agencies suffer their demise as a result of hubris. They latch on to a technology or group of technologies that they can use to create an amazing new-concept solution to a niche problem. They get very good at it, become ultra-specialised and don’t realise that the rest of the world is moving on to the next thing.

Since these flash-in-the-pan, high-churn agencies are often the most cash rich, they tend to become industry figureheads for a short while; pin-ups for the creative technophile. Unfortunately though, these proud companies quickly become relics as specialist cloud-based tools become more affordable, simple and manageable. The layman can now manage the basics of online marketing without any specialist help, so agency expertise in that regard is becoming unnecessary.

The New Industry

The heroes of the new digital landscape are a different breed altogether; they are the ones who are able to combine contemporary design, original high-quality coding solutions and a wide spectrum of off-the-shelf tech products to create bespoke, integrated, holistic applications to address any and all problems. Previously, these non-specialist agencies were criticised as ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. However, they are finally being recognised for their insight, breadth of knowledge, tactical agility and affinity for creative solutions.

You have to remember that:

  1. Design standards are always evolving.
  2. Coding standards are always evolving.
  3. More niche online products pop up every day.

Therefore creative digital agencies, with a range of unique clients in a range of industries, have the most experience of finding clever solutions in the ‘here and now’. Their finger is well and truly on the pulse and the fast-paced environment they operate in never lets them stand still.


While affordable cloud-based services are making digital marketing more accessible to the everyman, the landscape is arguably more modular and complex than ever. Tying the right modules together for the best results is therefore the new challenge for agencies.

The digital agency isn’t dying; it has just been redefined. If you’re struggling to see the wood for the trees when it comes to online marketing, you’re not alone. Luckily the new breed of digital agency will be there to help you get out of the woods and back on track.

Posted by Paul

Paul is our Head of Marketing and digital strategy specialist. A Google certified SEO expert and Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, he has worked on award-winning campaigns since 2003.

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