For the fifth consecutive year in our RSW survey, senior level marketing executives state the primary reasons they look for new agencies are “lack of proactivity” “not happy with strategy or thinking,” and, sadly, “not happy with creative.” You would think that, over time, agencies would catch on, but they haven’t.

These results will only get worse if full-service agencies don’t keep up with changes in the digital space occurring all around them—which becomes critical as digital firms are encroaching on agencies’ full service space.

Just because this week’s Adweek article by Andy McMains calls out: “Marketers to Digital Shops: Diversify or Die,” it doesn’t mean all is good for full-service firms. RSW has worked with a number of digital clients who have won major agency of record (AOR) assignments for work that cuts across fully-integrated programs—because they were willing to handle the traditional work as well as the digital.

In his article, McMains cites results from our latest survey, 2011 New Business Report: A Client’s Look Ahead at Agencies, where 67 percent of marketers state that, for digital shops to stay relevant, they need to find their way into more traditional media to meet the needs of marketers looking for fully-integrated solutions.

As I noted in a recent post, I completely agree with these findings. But I reached a point, during my interview for this article, where I needed to pause and think more broadly about the issue. Andy asked a question I found very difficult to answer: “Assuming nothing else changes, and you have to pick one of the two types of firms today to service your needs, which one are you going to choose?” While difficult, in the end I chose “digital agency with little experience in traditional media” over “full-service agency with little digital experience” as my answer.

The way I look at it, a marketer can more easily shepherd a digital firm through the less complex landscape of traditional media than shepherd a traditional firm through the very complex world of digital.

So, it’s not just about digital agencies diversifying to avoid irrelevance. It’s about full-service firms needing to diversify, as well. The advice I’d give to your full service firm if they aren’t heavily into digital is:  If you’re not in it, get on it. Sure, you do websites, you create Facebook pages, and you know how to build and buy banner ads… But, do you know how to measure ROI? Run sophisticated analytics? Evaluate the impact of print or broadcast on digital activity? Do you know how to buy biddable media versus buying from networks to help your clients gain greater efficiencies and better target their desired audience? How well do you understand SEO and search engine marketing? And are you even thinking about how mobile can be integrated and analyzed?

It’s time for agencies to acquire, hire or build these skill sets. Full service agencies have a great opportunity ahead of you. They just need to make the effort, and keep on top of the changes that will continue to occupy this space.

And it’s time for Marketers to ask themselves:  Is this agency I’m working today going to take me where I need to be tomorrow?  If the answer is no, give us a call…or stop by our site to tell us what you need:  click here.