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In an increasingly digital world, it is hard to separate online from offline and traditional from digital. (Photo: Istock)
In an increasingly digital world, it is hard to separate online from offline and traditional from digital. (Photo: Istock)

A new paradigm as IT firms chase digital designs

Information technology (IT) service companies, management consultancies and advertising holding companies have bought digital design and technology firms over the last few years. The pursuit has gathered pace over time. Mint takes a look at the reasons for this

What are the triggers for such acquisitions?

Going digital and digital transformation have been the key themes among enterprises and IT service providers. Digital refers to services that involve digital design and use of technologies in application development and customer experience on digital platforms. It could encompass artificial intelligence, blockchain, voice and services such as analytics and adtech. In the advertising business, digital is skewed towards telling a brand story on new media platforms or optimizing reach through tech. Advertising industry insiders say tech firms want to be creative and creative firms want to be seen as more tech savvy.

Why is customer experience important?

Customer experience is the new marketing battlefront, Gartner said in the context of a 2018 survey. Enterprises that hitherto placed functionality over form have begun realizing the importance of providing a great customer experience. Customers who were used to drab enterprise app experiences are also the ones used to superior experiences in a cab-aggregator or payment service app. Thus, even for internal employee apps, enterprises have started placing importance on overall user experience. Brand affinity and loyalty could well be defined by the experience across digital assets.

Is it possible for generalists and specialists to coexist?

There once was the advertising agency that would provide all relevant marketing communications. Over the years, the situation has changed and there is now room for both generalists and specialists in the information technology and creative services sector, especially as highly focused skills are not within the purview of generalists.

Which are the emerging skill sets?

Two different skill sets appear to be emerging among service providers. One is focused on creative output, which includes advertising and social media creativity, branding and design. The other is geared towards digital transformation leading with tech capabilities, supported by digital and user experience design. The ad agency ecosystem uses tech such as blockchain for media planning and voice for digital brand campaigns. Tech-led digital firms focus on digital product road maps, design thinking practices.

What does the future look like?

In an increasingly digital world, it is hard to separate online from offline and traditional from digital. Ads made for satellite TV are also viewed on digital platforms. Some people in the ad industry feel we may soon have to do away with the suffix “digital" in marketing. With a brand’s voice, design and experience across touch points such as web, mobile, smart watch or a kiosk set to play an important role, more acquisitions of digital specialists are likely.

Lakshmipathy Bhat is a marketing communications professional.

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