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Here we go. Ad Age reports that digital agencies have not yet done the required work to claim any sort of prowess in the area of leading brand strategy.
The article states:

“Increasingly marketers are realizing that [offline and online] has to be integrated … but interactive agencies have not yet proven they have the capability to manage brand strategy,” said Brian Haven, senior analyst at Forrester Research and the author of “The Forrester Wave: Interactive Marketing Agencies

Do we believe the folks at Forrester? Well, I think they make a valid point. David Armano of Critical Mass and the Logic and Emotion blog thinks so too. David has made a list of suggestions in terms of what agencies need to do to pull up their brand socks and legitimize themselves enough to grab the brass ring. My favorite one of his suggestions is to “think outside the browser“. So true.
My view is that, while digital agencies may seem poised to poised to pick up larger pieces that are seemingly up for grabs, it really is a legacy issue that will take time and competency to overcome. It might be a bit of Chicken and Egg, but the reality is that perceptions are not rapidly changing – meaning that the talk around brand is likely not being demonstrated by the walk.
Client side brand stewards are cautious to hand everything over to agencies that, in recent memory at least, were viewed as tactical players or, dare I say, suppliers and vendors – not partners. The observed word on the client side of the street is that achieving results in digital by understanding the intersection of technology, marketing and commerce, is still a far cry from being a brand visionary, ambassador and leader.
In large part, brands and brand management are in flux because of the growth of growth in the digital space and the emergence of new media and social media. The inability of gynormous top tier ad agencies to grasp this space has led to a bigger footprint for pure play digital shops as clients busily parceled out pieces to whomever seemed to be a “best in class” provider. Digital experts rose to the challenge and met client demands in terms of delivering what online audiences really want, use and benefit from inside the interactive arena. What did not shift in light of proving digital leadership was the responsibility to become “guardian of the brand”.
Unfortunately, be it right or wrong in your view, interactive agencies still have significant ground to cover. The irony is that being so good in this area likely painted them into a corner. The path created by a competent digital footprint has not yet led to doors swinging open around strategic brand management. That door will take time to open. The future is bright for digital agencies and digital marketers alike to win it by way of meritocracy, not though a blind expectation that a few kick-ass digital ventures will see it handed over on a silver platter.
The article continues:

“But to get there, digital agencies need to develop four core capabilities, according to the report: measurement and analytics, audience research, cross-channel integration and social media.”

The fact that these conversations are taking place is leading to a better place for digital agencies, digital marketers and brands as a whole. Hopefully, there will be real dialog and development in this area of opportunity, not defensiveness and arguments that will defeat the breadth, complexity and importance of this issue in today world of marketing.