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Digital marketing: the blurring between agency and client worlds

John Butcher
Sep 2, 2015 10:04:00 AM

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Blurring between agency and client worlds

It is clear to us all that times are changing in the media arena and that the lines of responsibilities (or rather outcomes) are blurring.

With an ever increasing level of sub-contracting and work sharing going on amongst digital agencies/providers, it has become harder to measure the strength (let alone the boundaries) of a solitary agency, devoid of the numerous value contributors that now feed into it.

“We are here to bring a depth of expertise and perspective. As an agency we work across a range of clients, so we learn faster and through that experience can provide clear advice on best practice. We need to bring our advice and recommendations of how to affect change into a business environment where there is often insufficient resource. Good agencies act as an extension to a brand’s shared values and direction, with the knowledge and experience to drive both forwards,” said Fuel’s CEO, Charles Ping during our recent webinar discussing the digital disconnect between marketing and the wider business.

Ping was joined by Mark Simester, Marketing Director for Warburtons, Proxima's Jonathan Cooper-Bagnall, and myself. We discussed, among other things, how it has become difficult to differentiate where the work of the agency starts and where the role of the brand stops in the digital environment.

An agency will say that they can work in a channel but in reality they share work and sub-contract certain disciplines. This is where procurement can play a core role in helping marketers understand exactly where the agencies capabilities truly lie. How much campaign strategy comes directly from their own in-house team? If it is sub-contracted, it is important to be aware of it, the risks associated, and how it matches with the brands own ethos.

This is where procurement can help, digging right into the value-network that surrounds the agency world, making sure that marketers are set up to evaluate the capability and robustness of their own objectives.

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Simester agreed adding, “In a traditional marketing model it was common to have one creative agency. Now, with lots of channels one of the core competencies of agencies is to be able to work in a group.” As he said – no brand wants to spend time refereeing different points of view from various agencies.

Fuel’s set-up involves clients working with a number of in-house teams and contracts. Ping makes sure that the most important aspect of this approach is that his clients are comfortable. “The group should be functioning as one even though they’re all on different P&L’s because they share the same objective,” Ping continued.

Transparency is crucial to this process and this is where procurement can act as a linchpin across media agencies and brands to ensure they’re getting the best ROI. Ping sees procurement as being “really useful in trying to win new business” as it brings rigour and fairness and helps the agency to avoid wasting time going down the wrong avenues.

It is important to remember that procurement is the facilitator. Procurement teams do not act as the creativity board, they should not have an opinion on what makes a great advert or not. Instead procurement should help set up the processes so that everyone who has a qualified opinion can put it through a balanced scorecard and come out with the right decision for the brand.

Procurement in this environment should encourage everyone to be allies not enemies and to challenge anyone if they do not feel they are solving business problems. Procurement should be collaborating with both agencies and clients for the common good.

Simester discussed that a big change in Warburton’s marketing strategy, for example, was to begin "fishing where the fishes were". While once it was all about brands getting online it is now about driving traffic and with digital now so much more difficult to measure, it is a challenge. Simester adds, “The key now is to understand the behaviours of your target audience, what sites they go to and where they spend their time, so you can capture them with the right message at the right time. It’s not just about how many ‘Likes’ you get on Facebook but engagement of the conversations – how many people commented, shared and told their friends about a post; or about targeting an audience with a television advert, now that there are so many devices to engage through. This has given us a real shift in approach. It’s this engagement that can provide rich feedback to instantly know if a piece of creative is working or not.”

It is the measurability, trackability and assignability of metrics that create some clarity between agency and client worlds, enhancing transparency and reducing risks of something unknown happening deep within the value-chain.

From a procurement perspective it is clear that all parties have to work together for the most effective outcomes from any campaign and that everyone should be measuring themselves on both sides of the cost and ROI equation within a joint framework.

Click here to learn more about how procurement and marketing leaders can work together to drive better commercial outcomes in the digital environment.

As always, if you have any thoughts or comments, please add them to the comment box below. 

The Digital Disconnect Research

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