The rise of programmatic trading has transformed the face of digital advertising. Whether you look at the buy-side, the sell-side, or even at the intermediaries, there isn’t a single player in the market who hasn’t had to adapt their offering in one way or another. The media agencies are no exception and — depending on who you talk to — they’re either doomed or rapidly adapting to the new landscape. One person who takes the latter view is Stuart Smith, VP Client Service UK & Ireland at Mediaocean, a company that provides a variety of media management and billing tools to many of the leading agencies. Here Stuart explains how agencies are evolving and how they can continue to add value.
Times are changing for media agencies. With an unprecedented volume of data available, an increasing number of paths to the consumer, and a growing number of technology companies jockeying to be their chosen partner — or, in some instances, their clients’ chosen partner — the advertising ecosystem has never been so complex. Programmatic technologies are making media buying, or the process of executing a media booking, a relatively straightforward administrative task, while planning and campaign optimisation are becoming increasingly nuanced. Agencies have had to evolve, and the more innovative ones have already found new ways to add value to their offering.
Navigating an Increasingly Complex Landscape
One of the ways in which agencies add value is by helping clients make sense of the media ecosystem, which now comes bundled with data management, an ever-growing list of industry jargon, and a gaggle of technology providers all promising the earth. Agencies have grown up around these systems and are often in a better position to help advertisers navigate around what will work for a client’s brand and more importantly what won’t.
But the agency relationship with the ad technology world doesn’t have to be an adversarial one either. Once you have trusted partners in place, collaboration is key to getting the best out of that relationship. By mixing and matching best in class technologies, agencies can then deliver truly integrated marketing and advertising.
Running integrated campaigns also allows agencies to apply learnings from the digital world elsewhere. For example, many agencies are combining the granularity of digital media with the branding power of TV i.e. by using data and insights to deliver campaigns that focus more on the ‘who’ and ‘why’ than the ‘where’ and ‘how’. Many agencies are also overlaying traditional media methods with elements more typical of a digital media campaign such as testing and optimisation. We’re starting to see a shift where campaigns are created in real time to deliver the best performance for their clients, measuring interaction of advertising across media channels – but using traditional TV-style metrics rather than impressions and click through rates – and adjusting campaigns accordingly.
Data is another area where agencies can add value, whether it’s in a analytical, a management or a consultative capacity. While many clients do collect data, the reality is that many don’t have the capacity to do anything meaningful with it. A number of agencies have stepped in to fill this breach by offering effective data analysis to provide insights that drive business decisions and marketing strategy.
Time for a Rebrand
The role of the media agency has moved far beyond from the days of buying TV and print media; they now need to be able to orchestrate campaigns and allocate resources across traditional media, display, social, and mobile channels, which are all tightly interrelated. In a world of convergent media, agencies who can advise their clients on all aspects of their marketing strategies, guiding brands through an ever-complicated marketing world – not just the media world – come out on top. With this in mind the term ‘media agency’ no longer best describes the full diversity of their offering, and other terms such as Marketing Investment Managers (MIMs) are being explored.
However, for media agencies to continue to evolve and expand, they’re going to have to attract proficient new talent experienced in delivering cross-channel, consumer-centric campaigns. Agencies now find that they need mobile experts, social media leads, video specialists, data analysts, and software developers alongside the more traditional copywriters and media buyers. This is already having an impact on agencies, but many will need to go even further if they’re to keep pace with industry change. For example, distinct departments such as digital teams and social teams should not operate in silos and agencies should be making full use of centralised marketing teams that can support a holistic strategy.
Media agencies can and will evolve to play an important role for the advertiser of the future, as long as they continue to reinvent the way in which they work. In an increasingly complex digital world, using data to become consumer focused, restructuring to reflect today’s ecosystem, and collaborating with other providers will enable agencies to deliver integrated, first-rate solutions that will add value to their clients’ businesses and drive sales. The media agency has evolved – but it’s not done evolving yet.