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An interview with Trevor Kaufman, CEO of Schematic.

Associate editor Dianna Dilworth interviews Trevor Kaufman, CEO of Schematic. The company was recently aquired by WWP

Q: Why do larger agency players want to purchase digital agencies?

A: There are a couple of different models for holding companies. They buy and bring them as individual agencies within the holding company, for example, [WPP-owned] Wunderman’s acquisition of Blast Radius. Then there’s the situation like WPP’s purchase of Schematic, where the agency is left pretty much intact, but within the holding company structure. In the case where the company is sort of injected, it’s an opportunity for them to help change the DNA of the operating company and make them inherently more digital. In Schematic’s case, it’s a way of leveraging of specialized skills over the entire network. It has been successful because, in the end, it is providing better more integrated solutions for clients.

Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of small creative shops versus big shops in today’s marketplace?

A: Small creative shops tend to have a real unity and vision, tend to be founder-driven, and are known for a particular kind of service. And, a lot of those founders are creative people, not business people. The advantage to being a bigger shop, especially in a digital environment, is that there are so many skill sets required to an end-to-end digital customer experience, that a shop with some scale can provide that. A company with a couple hundred people begins to field large teams that are necessary to handle big clients.

Q: What are the key features of any successful digital campaign?

A: In addition to messaging, digital marketing is about creating tools and applications and communities and content around brands. Where a campaign tends to have a birth and death to it, a lot of these digital things are ongoing businesses and ongoing presences for those brands. When seen through that lens, in addition to all of the traditional campaign-related skills, additional skill sets are needed. The skills around database marketing, CRM or interface information architecture are really brand new tool sets for marketers that are required now that these programs have a longer program.

Q: What are the challenges in digital marketing and agency work?

A: Nobody’s used to traditional advertising being buggy. In the case of digital marketing, there is a lot of technology development that is evolving and that requires development and quality assurance, and those are again new concepts in advertising.

Q: What can marketers do to ensure that they are choosing the right digital agency?

A: Today there is no more monopoly on the best ideas, and they don’t necessarily all come out of agencies. There is the idea of what digital agencies’ capability is. The most important thing for marketers to think about is, “as I move more money from traditional into digital, does this agency have the capabilities that I want? Are there types of activities online, in mobile devices or other things I could be doing?”

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