09 October 2009

Who "owns" Social Media -- ad agencies, PR firms, or digital shops?

This week the PRinciples blog featured an incredibly smart social media play by Draftfcb Vienna. (The agency needed to hire a new accountant). The blogger, a grad student, wondered if "PR or advertising should 'own' social media." This is not a new question; many in the industry are asking it.

My answer: all marketing firms should utilize social media when it makes sense for their clients' business. Would you ever confine the use of television to a single type of marketing firm? No -- ad agencies make TV commercials and PR firms make VNRs and B-roll. The same applies to social media. Different firms will use them in different ways. Writing as a mild-mannered executive for a great metropolitan ad agency, I'm happy to say I've worked on projects with most of the major PR firms in town and almost always find them to be creative, smart and professional.

The only quibble I have with the post on PRinciples is the assertion that ad agencies refer to social media as "digital media". No; we call it social media. I suppose it is a subset of digital media but these categorizations miss the point.

The strength of our ideas is limited only by the channels we imagine can carry them.

Lastly, none of us in the industry "owns" social media. More than any other channel, social media is driven by the people who use it. And that ain't us.


  1. Steve
    What marketing communications entity do you believe should be seen as the expert? Or, said differently, be the lead in expressing the brand?

  2. Dear Fred: My experience is that agencies work best when they organize their team around the client's needs and structure. This applies to multi-disciplinary, multi-agency teams as well. Some clients run these efforts themselves, often with a specific IMC or marketing services executive in the lead. Others rely on an external consultant. Many put one of their agencies in the lead (this is what I posted about a couple of weeks ago). A lead agency seems the best way as long as one of your agencies understands the business really well and has the capability to deliver channel-neutral thinking. Sadly, none of these arrangements is common in marketing today. Many clients allow budgeting to be siloed and hence the agencies toil away separately.