It used to be that companies hired advertising agencies to come up with exciting new ways to popularize their brands – and that was mostly it. Sometimes that meant developing a new logo and corporate identity; almost always it was all about brainstorming ideas and developing creative executions for magazine ads, billboards, radio spots, direct mail, and the like. Agencies composed jingles, laid out print ads, auditioned actors for commercials, and wrote lengthy marketing letters (complete with Johnson Boxes). It was all about one-directional (push) marketing, and it worked really well … sometimes, maybe. Because of course, it was hard to measure the results of these campaigns. Most marketers decided that they could trust their instincts – and their focus groups – to figure out what was working and what wasn’t.
By now, everyone knows (or if they don’t, they’ll know it soon enough) that this situation is changing fast. The shift has been happening for years, but lately, things have gone into overdrive – and it’s a whole new reality for marketers and agencies. Buyers expect more, new and emerging digital channels give consumers more information than ever about brands, and there are many more ways to shop and buy. Meanwhile, marketers are busy sifting through massive volumes of data to gain insights about their audiences; lead generation has become a science; and budgets are shrinking while competition gets more intense. There’s a new agency model emerging, as agencies go from a focus on outbound advertising campaigns to engaging more deeply in the entire outbound – and inbound – marketing process.
What Do the Experts Do?
Leading marketers at some of the world’s most respected marketing agencies are in agreement about the massive shifts happening in the agency landscape today. Ginger Conlon, editor-in-chief at Direct Marketing News, recently asked 15 agency executives: What’s the biggest change in the role of the marketing agency today, and what should client-side marketers expect as a result?
Ginger’s resulting story, “Today’s Marketing Agency Must Be a Driving Force,” gives voice to these leaders, who share what they’ve learned. Here’s a condensed version of just a few of their responses. Be sure to read them all to learn how these industry luminaries view the changing role (and opportunities) of the new agency model.
Brian Fetherstonhaugh, CEO of OgilvyOne, is intrigued by the power of using data to enhance creativity, rather than just as a measurement tool or report card.
“When used creatively data serves as inspiration, such as giving us insight into consumer intent, and shaping and triggering content … Together, data and creativity are an unstoppable force. They combine to create compelling personalized experiences that help client-side marketers win more customers and make them more valuable. It’s no longer about just data or just creativity. Client-side marketers should insist on both.”
Paul Mareski, President of Team One, sees this as an exhilarating time for marketers.
“With the influx of social, mobile, and other digital channels, agencies now more than ever need to be a true extension of brand teams and solve business goals, but also provide comprehensive, holistic solutions that engage audiences in new and exciting ways.”
Vin Farrell, Global Chief Content Officer at Havas Worldwide, is interested in the increase of digital formats that have dramatically changed media consumption habits.
“The advertising business was set up to deliver campaign messaging through TV, print, and radio. These linear experiences still exist, but the inclusion of social media, websites, and utility-based apps has expanded the way a brand can touch or be relevant to consumers. Agencies must change their infrastructure to match the new criteria of expertise needed to offer brands.”
Mary Alice LaPoint, Chief Strategist and President at To The Point Marketing (TTPM), says it’s no longer enough to be creative and wow the client with that “big idea.” (Think: cigarettes, martinis, and Madison Avenue.)
“The biggest change in the role of today’s marketing agency is to provide a wide, connected scope of services with the goal of driving more qualified leads to the client’s sales department. An agency has to be creative enough to design a compelling campaign with graphically captivating Web pages, and technical enough to make that website interactive and magnetic.
“Today’s connected, mobile, Web-based world demands tactics that satisfy the entire customer journey, and marketing automation technology helps to facilitate that. Marketing agencies today need to know how to run marketing automation on behalf of their clients; from getting found and known online, to generating new demand, to assisting in the lead-nurturing process. We need to follow the breadcrumbs, or in this case, the links, from the first touch to the final sale.”
More Automation, Better Marketing
Mary Alice and her team at To The Point Marketing (TTPM) provide a great example of the value of marketing automation for agencies seeking a significant competitive advantage. Since they adopted automation to better plan and execute multifaceted sales and marketing campaigns, the agency has done much more than survive the rapidly changing times. In fact, over the last year, their headcount has gone up 50 percent – and revenue has tripled.
TTPM’s clients include B2B and B2C businesses, whose distinct target audiences require different marketing approaches. Despite the differences in strategies and business type, each client shares the same fundamental need: attract new and repeat customers. Marketing automation has proven to be the linchpin for the success of their clients. TTPM has been able to take its client programs to new levels of sophistication – and its own business to new levels of profitability.
What Do These Stories Have in Common?
One thing is clear – the way forward is all about data-driven creative execution, personalization, new media, and increased efficiency, and marketing automation is the key to bringing those elements together for agencies who want to provide more value to their clients. Marketing automation is more than a nice-to-have feature to offer – it’s a must-have technology that can change the whole game.
Yes, we’re biased, but the evidence does show that a good automation platform makes it possible to harness the power of digital marketing, create and launch effective campaigns, measure the results – often in real time – and continuously improve outcomes as well as ROI. It’s no wonder many agencies are turning to marketing automation to help them improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase revenue. This technology is also helping agencies reach the right audience with the right message at the right time – something that all marketers have been trying to do throughout history (or at least since the heyday of Madison Avenue.) We’ve got specific strategies and tactics for yous in the eBook “Marketing Automation for Agencies:9 Essentials to Grow Your Agency and Help Your Clients Succeed.”
Photo of the cast of the 5th season of Mad Men from Wikipedia.