Bridging marketing to the new age of advertising

It’s been a season of conferences, and one of the topics of rumination seems to be the role of agencies.  I was fortunate enough to attend the Media and Marketing Summit in Melbourne recently, and of course Auckland saw the Direct Marketing Conference last month.

Both included some quite strident opinion, which is always good to get the blood flowing.  For example, in Melbourne, we saw panel debates about the evolution of agencies to meet the digital age, but also harking back to one of the fundamental offerings of agencies which of course is great creative work, and increasingly important in an age where there is so much fragmentation and where creative cut through will elevate brands from the sea of sameness.

This was a fascinating counterpoint to the DM Conference in Auckland where one speaker claimed (possibly to gasps of horror in the audience) that maybe agencies wouldn’t be needed soon as they could do everything in-house. Clearly, this speaker hadn’t got the memo about the value of creative excellence or was under the impression that the great creatives of the age want to work for them in-house.

What was amusing was that (to adopt an old Glasgow phrase) this latter point was the ‘talk o’ the steamie’ during the lunch break.  Most opinion  seemed to think the speaker was hopelessly naïve, and whilst doubtless some were eagerly rubbing their hands thinking how much they could save on agency fees in the future

But cut to Melbourne and the conversation was very different.  The really interesting (and interlinked) theme of the Summit was the changing face of the agency model, or more specifically, the now popular notion that ‘specialist agencies are back’. Whilst this concept isn’t new (as the best agencies are usually consultancies too), various CMOs and agency heads discussed how new ways of thinking are forcing the traditional agency to evolve, and how that’s a good and exciting thing.

For example, nowadays, the role of a media agency is no longer just buying media, a creative agency can somehow easily morph into a media agency, and a media agency can become a digital shop.  The list goes on (and on).

So, is this the new agency model as we know it? Do communications and advertising businesses need to become more specialised, in order to compete on an expertise level? Are we entering an age of consultancy ‘fiefdoms’? And lets face it, does this feel like groundhog day?

We’re seeing some significant client shifts in the media, advertising, and marketing landscape here in New Zealand, but none showing a clear pattern.  One minute a major financial services organisation opts for an agency specialist model, the next, a telco for a solo agency relationship.

What isn’t happening is opting for no agency. Clearly, New Zealand’s leading marketers deeply value the expertise that the right agency (or agencies) can bring to their business.

One area where agencies can help, other than creative, is with the complicated stuff.  For instance, the growth in digital channels and big data (another big buzzword bandied around at the Summit), is starting to disrupt the way businesses deliver marketing messages, with technology allowing engagement at a much greater scale.

That said, marketers’ excitement about this tends to massively overeach the capability for their systems and internal teams to deliver on this; it’s one area where agencies can be useful to plug those gaps and deliver ‘instant’ solutions while organisations build internal capability.

With data analysis and insight being the next frontier for most businesses, agencies and organisations across all industries will no doubt be looking to  beef up their data-driven strategic capabilities, investing in talent to better service this skillset. Reinforcing the fact that as we push forward into the digital realm, specific expertise in technical and analytical knowledge will continue to alter the nature of marketing agencies for years to come.

We find this exciting because this new age of advertising allows us to fundamentally deliver CRM at scale – if not immediately for everyone, then certainly over the next wee while.   So for us, we welcome the future and see the value of agencies having a significant lifespan – helping bridge New Zealand organisations to the new age.

Managing Director, Ben Goodale

See more here