How Social Media has changed advertising agencies sandboxes


As we all know social media and social networking has changed the communications landscape to a great degree. Certainly brand communications and advertising has changed from a monologue where the advertiser was crafting the brand message to a dialogue where the consumer is now part of the communications engagement.

Social media has also changed the advertising and public relations sandboxes. Until very recently the duties and responsibilities of agencies were quite distinct. Agencies did ads and PR firms did public relations. Now the sandboxes have blurred and gone away.

So who should implement social media and social networking for clients? Should it be your public relations firm, your advertising agency, your digital agency or should you do it yourself?

In many ways I could argue that it should be your public relations firm. They are the ones skilled at writing an electronically optimized news release with key words hyperlinked to help their client’s organic SEO. Then the public relations firm repurposes the release on the client’s Facebook fan page and tweets out the release with a link to the posting on the internet.

Most public relations agencies are adept at implementing video releases so repurposing a video release on YouTube should pose no great obstacle to them.

Now If I asked an agency copywriter to write me an electronically optimized news release their eyes would glaze over. At the same time if a public relations person told me they could write a radio commercial or TV spot, I would laugh.

One of the social media experts that I follow is Steve Rubel of Edelman Digital. I know Edelman as a public relations agency and not an advertising agency. And where do I read Steve’s Rubel columns? In Advertising Age. Yes the sandboxes have blown away.

So who should handle your social media and networking programs? Your advertising agency? Your public relations firm? Your digital agency? Well I argue that it should be the smartest resource. Whichever firm is the most skilled and well versed in social media.

Many times I see many firms in all three practices who are posers.

They announce that they are engaged in social media and handing social media for current and prospective clients yet they have no presence on any of the social networks, their social media has no organic presence when you search for them.

I am just a consultant, yet I routinely have many more Linkedin connections and Twitter followers than most agencies, public relations or digital agencies that reach out to me. My Google presence dominates theirs and they are companies with numerous employees. So I say partner with the smartest resource that demonstrates their capability by their presence in this new communications platform and medium.

Why not just do it yourself you might ask? I have talked to many clients who are doing it on their own. It’s simple they say. All it takes is time. But time does cost money.

Most clients’ marketing departments are lean these days and their social media networking efforts are often an added responsibility for some selected individual in addition to the other work they may be doing. This limits their robustness and their participation because they just don’t have the time.

The other mistake that they make is that they don’t have a strategy. They are just doing it without any set messaging strategy. There are limited metrics and no benchmarks to judge those metrics.

Many companies aren’t doing too much in the social media space because it is too politically hard so they aren’t capitalizing upon the many opportunities that social media offers. In larger companies, implementing social media may involve the legal department, customer service as well as marketing and getting everybody together to craft a social media program may not be what marketing wants to champion right now.

That is why you need an outside source to help you with your strategy, help you with your band width and keep you smart. Social media is changing so rapidly that you need as many good resources as you can afford to use.

So the sand has shifted but the shifting sands have also provided opportunities for growth, innovation and change which marketing is supposed to embrace. Happy tweeting.

Hank Blank runs a marketing services consultancy company based in Laguna Niguel, CA. His core competencies include advertising, public relations, interactive and personal and social networking. He also conducts agency reviews aligning clients with the correct resources for their needs. He speaks on Networking and New Business Development across the country.

He can be reached at or


One thought on “How Social Media has changed advertising agencies sandboxes

  1. I’ve seen this blurring of lines between PR and ad agencies for years. As a writer and marketing consultant, my core competency is producing brochures, booklets and newsletters for companies. I can always spot when these items have been produced by an ad agency – it looks like an extension of the ad campaign. Glitzy, but little content. Big images and pithy captions are great for advertising but don’t communicate the more important information to readers who need to know about new technology, services and programs. My guiding principle in business is to do what you are best at, and the clients will follow.

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