The Apple Approach To Digital Service Delivery

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference where the future of advertising was being debated. One of the topics that came up naturally was the future of advertising agencies. What will they look like in the future? It's a stone-cold cinch that they won't look much like they do today. 

Here's the challenge. Marketing is changing faster than most companies can keep up with. So many marketers find themselves chasing technology. This is an approach guaranteed to frustrate. Technology is impossible to predict. It's an area rife with "Black Swans." You can't pin future strategies on technological bubbles that expand and burst. As one marketing head said, "the minute someone comes to me with a Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare strategy, I fire them." 

How to Build a Racecar 

What marketers are trying to do to keep up with the digital transition wave is akin to buying miscellaneous mechanical parts and then trying to assemble them into a racecar on the fly. In most cases, you don't know what those pieces do, how they fit together, or even if they do fit together. We're not even sure what the end product should look like. Yet we keep having digital marketing technology vendors say we have to buy these parts because if we don't, we'll lose the race. It's madness to continue this way. It's one of the reasons my friend Scott Brinker of Ion Interactive says that we need CMTs - Chief Marketing Technologists. The theory - at least one person in the pit crew should have an idea of what a car looks like.



As I was thinking about this, I started thinking what a possible parallel might be. Where else does technology move so fast that's it's hard, if not impossible, for the end user to keep up? Almost immediately, I thought about personal computers.

The PC Service Model 

Consider the PC approach. You buy a box designed to accommodate as many pieces of hardware and software as possible. In return for this open flexibility, you have to figure out how to get all the pieces to fit together. You have to download the patches, try to get the box to recognize the new peripheral and figure out how to get one program to talk to the other. Granted, it's easier than digital marketing because at least the various developers of hardware and software go in with the intention of trying to get along nice with each other. There is no such consensus with digital marketing vendors.

The Apple Service Model

Now consider the Apple approach. Within an enclosed ecosystem, the pieces are pretested to ensure they fit together. The goal: to deliver a plug-and-play experience. Apple is not 100% successful in this, but its track record is much better than on the PC side. Do you have the open flexibility of the PC world? No, but you're also spared seeing how the sausage is made.

Could you not extend this same approach to a digital marketing agency? Rather than embroiling the client in the nitty-gritty detail of multiple platforms and technologies, couldn't you integrate the pieces so they work well in the background, pumping out results through a simple and elegant user interface?

It sounds simple, and indeed, this is what many full-service digital agencies say they do, yet there still seems to be a disconnect when it comes to satisfied customers. I haven't heard many enthusiastic evangelists for digital agencies. I haven't seen the same devotion and/or longing I see in other's eyes when I pull out my iPad in a meeting or on the plane. It was expressed in clear terms on a flight last week when, as I was reading a book on it, an elderly gentleman walked down the aisle and asked, "Do you love it or do you LOVE it?" We talked for 10 minutes about iPads. Until those same conversations start happening about your favorite digital agency, we're missing the boat.

5 comments about "The Apple Approach To Digital Service Delivery ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Todd Tilley from Wrecking Ball Media, October 7, 2010 at 9:47 a.m.

    Future Ad Agencies will look pretty much they way do now until the "marketing head" guy you quoted above gets put out to pasture. Why would you fire someone who comes to you with a relevant facebook/twitter/foursquare strategy? Just because you don't use it, don't understand it or think that's its played out? Here's another option I bet this marketing head would love - How about we skip all this digital crap and go with a targeted OOH and Cable TV buy? The client will love it because we can give them solid GRP's and we can still do business with all of our old cronies. Marketing head, "Now we're talking! And don't forget to throw in the URL at the end of the spot to cover us digitally."

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 7, 2010 at 10:50 a.m.

    If the concept and idea flows with the account and can be applied to media tools, fine. If not, it does not matter what the media is. I just saw a TV ad with Antonio Bandaras for what I think was a travel location. It was atrocious. The concept, the creative, the execution were awful, not the media. Although, sound byte cacaphonic media concepts seem to sound what they are.

  3. Scott Brinker from ion interactive, inc., October 7, 2010 at 11:06 a.m.

    Thanks for the shout-out, Gord. I like the pit crew analogy.

    I agree that chasing technology without really understanding its place in a bigger picture -- and the realities involved -- is kind of like the dog chasing the car. The worst thing that can happen is actually catching it!

    Your vision for an agency that gets this, and seamlessly meshes strategy and creative and technology into an Apple-like experience for CMO's to effortlessly buy and enjoy is a beautiful vision. At the very least, a noble aspiration. But because so many of these technologies get tied into the operations of companies themselves, I think marketing departments can't fully abdicate responsibility for the sausage making to an agency. Perhaps, though, one of the features of this ideal digital agency will be helping clients develop the internal competencies necessary to fully leverage the external services that agency can deliver.

  4. Gordon Hotchkiss from Out of My Gord Consulting, October 7, 2010 at 12:08 p.m.


    I think you missed my point. Technologies are never the basis for a strategy. They are tools. You have to look beyond this to see how to connect with people. Connections and relationships are complex and shouldn't rely on one technical tool. The nature of the relationship should be the nexus of your strategy, not the tool you use to connect.

  5. Gordon Hotchkiss from Out of My Gord Consulting, October 7, 2010 at 12:10 p.m.


    Valid points. The vision of an "Apple" agency, is, I fully admit, half baked at this point. (Sorry..couldn't resist) But it is something to keep in mind as we redefine what agencies could be. At least, I'll be doing that. And it's high time our paths crossed again!

Next story loading loading..