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Industry Contributor 15 Oct 2020 - 5 min read

Simplicity is not laziness: talk real, ditch the jargon, bin the logos (and do e-commerce well)

By Stuart Bailey, Managing Director - PHD Australia

I remember being in Singapore a few years ago, and one of our senior clients stood up and said to a room of us that “if an agency is not a leader in ecommerce, they won’t have our digital business in three years”.

This was a specific warning of where the client saw the future, that we shouldn’t rest on our laurels, and that we needed to continue developing our services and offering.

Thinking about this now, they were dead right. But I also think unless your offering in data, tech, experience and ecommerce is compelling, you’re going to struggle as a media agency in the current landscape.

Sometimes I think back to simpler times when I first got into this business back in 2001. Digital was SEM and display, yet still it didn’t feel simple at the time. Those of us who date back that long will remember making our fair share of mistakes as we tried to understand the new landscape and the expanding ecosystem that has developed over the past two decades.

I sometimes wonder what my 2001 self would think if he landed in 2020 and had to deal with the level of complexity we now have?

To use the analogy of the frog in the boiling bath, 2020 me has been slowly boiling over time, whereas 2001 me would probably dip a toe in 2020 water, scream that it is too hot and run a mile.

This begs the question – why are we surprised our clients sometimes have a similar reaction?

Ask any client what percentage of their time is dedicated to media, let alone digital media, and I am sure many will be surprised by how low the answer is, I know I often am. Put simply, today’s marketers have so many areas to focus on that many haven’t had the benefit of time to specialise purely in digital and endure the learning curve media agencies have benefited from over time.

This is why we need people in agency land who can simplify the complex, translate the jargon, and talk the client’s language for a change, instead of our own.

Simplicity should not be confused with laziness or with lack of knowledge. Think about someone with whom you have complete faith in their ability, but they can also explain their expertise to you in your language. A doctor who knows how to break down a diagnosis into something you can understand, or a mechanic who can explain what is wrong with your car without taking you through an engine diagnostic.

In our industry I call these people digital translators.

Hardly a revolutionary term, but as these people simplify the complex, perhaps a simple title is apt.  These are the people who understand enough of the detail, can translate for the subject matter experts, and weave multiple digital disciplines into a cohesive and relatable story.

A story that is in the client’s language, not ours.

People often ask what the hardest part of my job is, in relation to digital, and without a doubt it is digital translation. Bringing together all the different parts of our digital offering and fitting it into one overarching offering. Making sure that when we talk three letter acronyms like SEM, SEO, CRO, DMP or DCO, that the only three letter acronym our clients are thinking is PHD. That they understand how we bring these capabilities together to have a positive impact on their business.

Yes, today’s media agencies need to have a compelling digital offering. But in 2020, what separates the good from the great are those who can demystify the jargon and keep it simple for others to understand.

Simplicity is deceptively difficult, so here are my top tips:

  1. Bin the logos

Get rid of multiple logos and talk capabilities. Clients do not care about fancy company, product or operating names, they just want to know what you can do.

  1. Show don’t tell

Our job as a partner to our clients is to make the disjointed seamless and we need to actually demonstrate how integration works in practice.

  1. Explain the journey

Talk about transformational journeys that tangibly land how a client enhanced their marketing capabilities and effectiveness, not just instant proof points or success metrics.

  1. Ditch technical jargon

Our job is not to make what we do seem complex, but to translate the plethora of digital jargon and acronyms into layman’s terms for what they actually mean to clients. 

  1. Use a framework

Leverage a framework or process to help simplify how different capabilities visually and tangibly come together.

  1. Set the tone

Train your people to be digital translators. This is a philosophy that needs to be brought to life at the heart of agency culture, not just in the pitch room by a handful of people.

As the media landscape continues to change at a rapid pace, one constant you can bet on is increasing complexity. With that in mind, it’s time we binned the smoke and mirrors of technical jargon and mythical capabilities, and pursued an industry culture of simplicity where digital translators are the norm, not the exception.

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Stuart Bailey, Managing Director

PHD Australia

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