7 reasons social media agencies are like advertising agencies; 8 reasons they're not

Before starting BarnRaisers, I worked at well-known advertising agencies.  I was fortunate to have worked on major brands, some at times of profound change, and with very talented people.  It was a lot fun for a lot of years.
A former client, Brian Perkins, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at J&J, said at Cannes this year, “holding companies for ad agencies should consider taking themselves private.  Advertising is a labor-intensive, not capital-intensive, business and it’s inevitable digital agencies are going to gravitate toward brand stewardship.”
You may or may not agree, but Brian’s comments indicate a shift is taking place.  To help explain why, here are 7 reasons social media agencies are like ad agencies and 8 reasons they’re not.

  1. Both have to demonstrate a deep understanding of consumer attitudes and buying behaviors
  2. Both have to find insights into unmet consumer needs
  3. Both have to know how to create and build brands
  4. Both have to be able to take the brand idea and translate it across all media platforms
  5. Both have to be on top of media usage and trends
  6. Both have to find unique tactics and executions that accelerate sales and have people talking
  7. Both are accountable for results, return on investment and sustainable sales growth


  1. Ad agencies communicate through a monologue.  Social media agencies through a conversation
  2. Ad agencies work with product benefits.  Social media agencies with shared interests
  3. Ad agencies target heavy users of brands who they encourage to buy more.  Social media agencies find advocates who they encourage to spread the word
  4. Only 14% of people trust advertising.  80% of people trust the recommendations of other people
  5. Ad agencies use multiple mediums and are “media neutral.”  Social media agencies work mostly on the internet where 90% of all purchase decisions begin.
  6. Ad agencies are labor intensive.  Social media agencies are even more labor intensive because, once the campaign is launched, the work has just begun (e.g. content refreshment, community management, measurements and analytics).
  7. Only 18% of ad campaigns ever generate a positive ROI.  People kick the tires on social media but over the last two weeks we found 77 case studies that prove social media ROI.
  8. Ad agencies tend to be secretive about their “proprietary” and “trademarked” process for creating ads.  Social media agencies tend to share what they’ve learn and publish for all in places like SlideShare.

I’ve found social media promotes a culture of givers.   I see where it going to lot of good for businesses for a lot more years to come.  Of course, the winners will be the best of both.
Do you have an opinion on the two?


  1. Ad Agency Albany

    I really enjoyed this post. You describe this topic very well. Good Marketing Strategies helps expand the business in the right way.

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