Every agency and almost every media company is scrambling to stay ahead of the digital media curve. Or catch up. Buying digital companies and investing in resources to add to their capabilities and hopefully restore and increase lost revenue from traditional assets and practices. But increasing digital capacity without evaluating its strategic implications is not an answer.

One of the biggest complaints from advertisers is that they can’t seamlessly and effectively seem to integrate the vast array of digital options into their marketing and media plans. Their agencies have a laundry list of digital expertise to consider all the platforms, channels and devices. Search, social, mobile, video, display (deep breath), desktops, laptops, smart phones, tablets and thousands of sites (whew). And programmatic buying on open exchanges, private marketplaces and direct premium inventory.  In addition to traditional media. These are communication tools inside the digital box. Yet that’s what everyone talks about. So what’s an advertiser to do?

Agencies know how to evaluate these digital options and, for the most part, measure them. They also know how to execute various creative messages to target and optimize their audiences. But what is frustrating to most advertisers is how are they going to most effectively integrate and leverage these alternatives, most efficiently, to maximize ROI and who is going to lead them into the future.

What’s often missing is effective, cohesive, overarching original strategic thinking.  An overall, innovative strategic plan to solve a problem or accomplish an objective with the most effective integration of creative and media resources. Strategy defines the “what” with an assessment of the problem and analyzes the information from all sources to guide the path of psycho-dynamics. The continuing evolution of digital opportunities requires specialized and technical understanding of available message platforms but, at the same time, it also necessitates the ability to evaluate the whole menu of options with smart strategic thinking outside the box.

It is not easy to create effective strategic integration and to achieve the optimal result in a digital world with so many avenues and to accurately measure attribution.  The digital world is changing rapidly and a plethora of digital options will continue to emerge that offer even more opportunity. As Bradley Jakeman of Pepsi was quoted as saying at a recent ANA conference: “The most dangerous words in marketing are, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” And, in most cases, he’s right.

We need to begin the process with the necessary data to initiate insightful strategy that also leverages new technology and inspires original thinking. Strategy that is aimed at solving the client’s specific business problem, using knowledge gained from every available resource -- those in place and those that emerge in the newly accelerated world of marketing investment options. And applying lateral thinking that’s outside the box. I think that’s the kind of leadership clients really want. All we have to do, then, is figure out how to pay for it.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers.