Jeb Stuart, The Panama Canal, and Revolution Agents

Boy have I got the job for you. Do you want to sit in a stuffy office with old strokey-beard guys playing with markers, typewriters, and pencils? Do you want to place ads in newspaper classified sections? Do you want to shmooze and be creepy?

Join the agency business!

I could be wrong, but I kind of feel like this is the pitch agencies are given to people looking for jobs. Is it really any wonder that a recent study published by Edward Boches indicates that digital talent may not gravitate towards agencies? I think not.

It seems like a lot of people view “agency” as synonymous with old, antiquated, rickety. Agencies are production houses for ads that no one wants to place, right? My friend Jeannette Baer (@myagenda) answered a quick Twitter survey I did (the question was “How do you define agency?”) and said that agencies are agents for companies, or liaisons between companies and any kind of media.

I would like to toss out another definition of agency though, one that I think would be more in line with how our agency works and what my experiences have been. I would posit that agencies are Revolution Agents.

Revolution Agents

OK, it’s really easy to say, “I’m coining a phrase.” What do I mean by this? Well, everyone is still saying that Social Media is a revolution, right? It’s turning marketing on its head, the entire way we are communicating is going through a mega-upheaval, etc etc. You’ve heard it all before.  When you have a revolution, there must be something you are revolting against. In this case, the revolution seems to be against “traditional” marketing. When people started talking about the Social Media revolution, they started talking about how: websites, advertising, SEO, publications, newspapers, books, libraries, and zombies are all dead. Or undead.

Well, being a scholar of history, I have to throw out there that revolutions are seldom able to wipe the earth clean of what is being revolted against. In fact, sometimes, like in the French Revolution, the tides turn and there’s a counter-revolution. After the American Revolution, the people wanted to name George Washington our first king. Uh wha?

I’m not calling for a counter-revolution here, but I’m saying that there is some ground between the allegedly antiquated world of how things were five years ago and the allegedly brand new world that exists now. Agencies are the best equipped to walk you through that no-man’s land and build a bridge. They are Revolution Agents.

There are two ways I can explain this concept. One is by using the brilliant Confederate Calvary man, Jeb Stuart. The other is to use the Panama Canal.

Jeb Stuart

Perhaps one of the most famous battles of the Civil War was fought in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. If you’ve ever been there, it seems, still, like the least likely place for there to be massive warfare. Although I’ll grant you that there were probably far fewer wax museums in 1863, little has changed in terms of the feel of the town. The battle is also famous because Robert E. Lee made a series of mistakes that ended up with him ordering Picket’s charge. That didn’t go so well, and the battle pretty much marked the end of the war for the Confederacy, though the war raged on for another 2 years.

One of the reasons that Robert E. Lee was so off his game during this battle is that Jeb Stuart had not done what he was supposed to. You see, Stuart had the capability to ride around armies, scout out the whole scene, and then report back to Lee what the enemy was up to, what kinds of numbers there were, things like that. Well, as Lee headed up to Pennsylvania through Maryland, he and Stuart got separated by too wide a distance, and Lee went into the battle blind.

For all of the companies who are entering into the world of Social Media because someone says they have to, or for all of the companies who are refraining from engaging in Social Media because someone says they have to, I suggest to you that you need a Jeb Stuart. You need someone who can ride around, sniff out what’s going on in all different directions, report back to you, and then help you implement a plan of attack.

An agency can be your Jeb Stuart. Because we are involved in so much (that’s right, we don’t just create ads and place them), we have the pulse of a lot of what is going on in the marketing world. We can tell you about things we are encountering that we think might work for you, and then we can help you move forward with a campaign. We can help you navigation this crazy “is dead” versus “is changing forever” environment.

The Panama Canal

The other way that agencies can serve as Revolution Agents is by serving as a link between the old world and the new world. We do not hide the fact that we still are involved in media buying. We place online ads, we place print ads. And in fact, in talking to a recent contact of ours, it turns out that 85% of people polled about receiving an electronic-only copy of his company’s publication said, “Well, that’s okay, we’d like to receive print please.” For us, print is not dead, it is merely changing.

We also don’t hide the fact that we are always educating ourselves as much as possible about website development, SEO, public relations, trade shows (virtual and real life), marketing materials like brochures, catalogs, and sell sheets, QR Codes, Augmented Reality publications, and yes, Social Media.

Right now, it seems like a lot of people believe that you can’t get from 1 world to the other. It seems like it’s as hard as it was getting from the Atlantic to the Pacific before the Panama Canal opened for business. You have to go well out of your way, it’s dangerous, it’s costly, and it just doesn’t seem feasible. Well, like the Panama Canal, we can make that transition from one world to the other seamless. We can guide your ship back and forth and even help you carry some of that Pacific Ocean water over into the Atlantic. We like to mix up our oceans (and our metaphors).

It’s easy to believe that agencies are advertising, advertising is print, print is dead, and therefore agencies are dead or dying. For some agencies, this might be true. If you are just a production house, you are in HUGE trouble. But agencies have a chance to completely redefine what the word “agency” means. And for folks who are in college or grad school, for those with “digital talent,” for those who are looking for a new and exciting job, I would say to you that there is no need to recreate the wheel. You could make a huge difference by using your expertise to bring an agency into the role of a Revolution Agent. What could be more exciting than that?

Does this make sense to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

1st Image by Faakhir Rizvi. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/fakhar

5 comments
CNA Training
CNA Training

Finally, an issue that I am passionate about. I have looked for information of this caliber for the last several hours. Your site is greatly appreciated.

Jeannette Baer
Jeannette Baer

While an advertising agency does create, design, buy/places media and acts as 'agent' for client, it's really so much more than that!
Social Media has been a game changer for all businesses. More and more you find biz re allocating budgets traditionally devoted to print media now being invested in Social Media.

I also agree with with Suzanne, people and businesses are forgetting about marketing; I see as "Marketing being the soul" behind a successful Social Media plan and it's best performed by agencies.

So, in summary, there's so much more to an advertising agency than the definition we find in the dictionary and most of the changes has come only in the last few years. Social Media has changed the way we conduct businesses as an Agency. We need to be well versed in Social Media; our clients expects us to!

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

I am such a jerk. I spelled your name wrong. I'm going to go fix it.

I like the wording you have about marketing being the soul behind social media, but I think social media is also of marketing. It's like an arm or a leg, where marketing is the whole body.

Thanks for stopping by!

Suzanne Vara
Suzanne Vara

social media is short for social media marketing and marketing is what agencies do best for their clients. Advertising is a component of marketing as a tactic to obtain the overall marketing goals so when people say that trad adv is dead then they are really saying that we need to find a new means of obtaining our marketing goals? Interesting. Television is not going away as people have shows that they watch regularly and in order to have tv shows, we have to have commercials that are created by the very talented folks at the agencies. The media has to be placed by the media buyers at the agencies.

Social media marketing is best left to the agencies as when you break it down, SM is advertising and as we see so many new *agencies* pop up that only offer SM as it is the newest shiny tool they are forgetting that it is marketing and marketing is best performed by the agencies. I may be biased however I believe that when we look at the most successful campaigns we will see an agency behind it.

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Quite right. The distinction between "advertising" and "marketing" continues to seem blurry to me. Advertising no longer refers to just print placement, and marketing certainly extends far beyond "Just" advertising. Therefore, it most certainly makes sense that agencies are not old, rickety, and out-dated. They cannot be if they want to survive.