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Why it’s important for a creative agency to be able to code

Monday - July 9th, 2012

Written by: Tristan Pelligrino

Why it’s important for a creative agency to be able to code

I recently sent out a tweet referencing “Why every digital marketer should learn how to code.” So, I thought I would add to these thoughts and give my personal take on why today’s creative agencies need to have some technical capabilities as well.

Creative agencies are being redefined

First of all, I should acknowledge that creative agencies are being redefined. Traditionally, creative agencies developed campaigns for television, radio and print. In today’s business environment, the web has put a wrench in this model. In order to reach your audience, you need to connect across a variety of online channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and make your own dynamic website. At this point, larger traditional agencies are battling with smaller digital marketing firms and everyone in the middle is determining the best strategies for online branding.

Knowing how the web works

To make things difficult on all marketers, the digital world changes every single day. On any given workday, you’ll find me with at least five browser tabs open to keep up with movements in the industry. I usually have RSS feeds, Twitter, Hootsuite and other forums open all day. I view this as a big part of my job.

In addition to keeping up with the trends in the industry, I really feel it is important to have a basic understanding of how the web works. And by “understanding,” I mean understanding how code works.

Code is the foundation of the web. Every website is built using some form of code, whether that is PHP, Perl, Java, etc. In addition to the processing logic, there are even stylesheets (css) and client-side languages (javascript) that manipulate how websites are viewed in browsers – these also use forms of code. And, of course, there are the various forms of html that actually present the data in a form you can view on whatever device you are using. If you’re curious as to what types of programming trends are going on, checkout the TIOBE Programming Community Index. This resource provides information on the popularity of languages based upon the amount of skilled engineers in the marketplace.

Why understanding code is important to creative agencies

Ok, so why is knowing PHP or javascript important to a creative agency? Well, I’m not sure that knowing how to write a “switch” statement or a “loop” is crucial. But, a creative agency should understand the technical components of the solutions they recommend to clients. Here are a few reasons why technical knowledge is crucial to providing sound digital marketing solutions:

  1. Maximizes budget - Different technical solutions involve different budgets. If a creative agency is knowledgeable about the different toolsets available in the industry, then a company’s marketing budget can be maximized.
  2. Enhances support – As organizations become operable around the clock, it is important to have a creative agency who can solve problems with your website or campaign. If your email campaign is scheduled to go out in the morning and you need someone to help out with the html, it’s important to have a creative agency with these technical capabilities.
  3. Provides flexibility – Other than just maximizing budget, it is important to have technical options. When a creative agency has technical knowledge, it is much more likely to get a solution in place that is flexible and meets as many requirements as possible.
  4. Increases ability to track and identify ROI – Identifying a return on investment is perhaps the most important part of marketing. When analyzing technical solutions, it is important to understand how the information will be collected and analyzed.

Ultimately, digital marketing solutions are based upon technology. And, technology changes every day. So, it is crucial for agencies who focus on creativity and strategy to also have the technical chops to deliver results for their clients.

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