As businesses rush to keep pace with new tech developments, the rise of the Chief Technology Officer, Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Data Officer is regularly reported amongst brands and agencies across the creative industries. There is a growing debate that these roles could overtake in importance that of the Chief Marketing Officer. While design agencies aren’t usually part of this conversation, they too can benefit significantly from increasing their digital capabilities.
Just as their clients are preparing to be more tech-savvy, design agencies should take the initiative to advise clients on audience needs and the digital tools that can inform and improve their work – whether designing for retail spaces or digital UX. Not every agency needs a CTO, but to keep track of new technology and to know the nuances of new platforms, designers need to pay closer attention than before to what’s new and what has potential in their field.
A design agency with digital specialists in-house has proven to be a valuable asset, but making the transition in the wrong way can result in an incomplete service at best. It could result in poor return on investments and bad consultancy that may damage your agency’s reputation in the future.
Here are four ways that agencies can make the most of the potential new technology can bring.
Invest and commit
Building a team of technology specialists is a winning method for agencies to create a flow of useful tech that can improve client work, but also to maintain a critical oversight of the wider technological landscape. An expert team that's focussed on your client's audiences and well-versed in the ups and downs of broader digital trends is crucial – they're as likely to prevent unwise investment in one platform as to recognise something of real value to the agency or your clients.
Make it part of your culture
The transition has to be top down, so make digital and technology innovation part of your agency's way of working in a broad sense. It's important not to silo your tech offering as an extra. Integrate it into your offering across every touchpoint – don't just stick it on the side. Look inwards too, as more often than not you have people in-house who will have personal interests that involve new tech. Find and give time to champion those people first and then the technologies. There are tons of free events out there fore people to attend too. At FITCH, our 515 weekly event is a very good example of a cultural platform that can also foster tech discovery and informal conversations over a few drinks.
Don't bolt on
New tech comes and goes, however both your company's proven approach and client's brand strategy should always trump the next big thing. Developing or complementing the client's digital strategy with your design-focussed tech know-how go a long way to accommodating new platforms that all too often seem to appear overnight.
Taking a long term and well-informed approach to new tech should go deeper than jumping on bandwagons, and should be linked to your client’s existing brand strategy. Design agencies shouldn't try to compete with the likes of big media agencies, and should focus their effort to areas regarding design. But that's also an advantage to get to really niche areas of tech which then in turn can have mainstream impact - such as VR or 3D printing have done.
Start the conversation early
Emerging platforms can be complex to navigate successfully at the best of times, but brands must engage their agency or consultancy at the earliest point in the brief to get the best from them and achieve the goal of point 2: an appropriate and coherent approach to new tech potential. Likewise, agencies shouldn’t wait for the client brief to get involved: as the specialists, take the initiative to bring options to your client before “solutions” are imposed upon you.