I’ve been talking with a couple of friends of mine about the business of agencies. One is starting an agency and the other is going to sell theirs. The first person is only interested in creating beautiful sites based in Flash and the other has been working on honing search engine marketing (SEM) expertise. They both see the Internet differently. I would say the first falls into the category of entertainment and the other falls into the information category. (Reminder, the Internet is becoming the source for all things entertainment, information and communication.)

That got me thinking; which is the better model and is either too limiting?

Factory Labs is one of my favorite local agencies. They focus on creating rock & roll for their clients and when I spoke with them a couple of years ago, they said they only do “cool shit”. At the time, I was asking myself if they realize that cool shit only comprised maybe 5% of the market and that was a whole lot of market to ignore. Either way it has worked well for them. They have the Audi account and work with Oakley. (A prime example of rock & roll can be found here. Factory Labs did not create this but this is the type of work they do.) In other words they work with bigger brands. Brands that in theory don’t need to worry about things like SEO, SEM or usability. Their site is a destination. The problem with that line of thinking lies in the fact that people are using Google, Facebook and Twitter to find products/services and because of this, discovery is a powerful tool. An example of discovery is the Trek Trikester. I was in the Wheat Ridge Cyclery the other day and saw this amazing little blue (or pink) tricycle. I’ve been looking for one for my son and had no idea that Trek made a tricycle. I’ve searched online for a good one but nothing for the Trek Trikester came up and I’m a huge fan of Trek. Trek is a big brand with a lot of information associated with its products and to not have this product optimized, kept me from discovering it.

For brands that are not information intensive such as Pepsi, this type of one-trick-pony agency is great. For the Bigger brands with products/services that have more technical products like Audi, SEO/SEM, etc is needed. Audi’s A4 page does “okay”. It would be pretty easy for a fan page to displace this page in search results if one was created.

I think of the Flash based agencies as advertising firms (an important part of marketing) and the information based agencies as marketing firms. As a business (depending on what my product/service is) I would want both in one shop. I think of Flash at the top of the progressive disclosure funnel and then things like Social Media, SEO/SEM further down the path; that would be a great firm. I posted about this using Nike as an example of what NOT to do.

As an agency it’s daunting to master one area of expertise (entertainment vs. information) let alone two. It would be wise to partner with a vendor that compliments your core strength and then NOT notice how much money they’re making and decide to build that expertise in house. Word gets around.

If anyone knows of a firm that does both well, I’d like to know who they are. Please email me or comment.

Advertising or Marketing Online?