‘Putting the consumer first’ is the first line in today’s Marketing 101; every brand claims to do it, even if they don’t. This desire to put the consumer first has actually come from the consumer; “stop showing me stuff I have no intention of buying and start showing me stuff I might just be interested in”. Well, what with social media and a personal computer in everyone’s pocket these days, it should be a whole lot easier than it is. So if brands still find it difficult to put the consumer first, how and where can they turn to get the best and most productive advice? To agencies of course! Agencies are the impartial, neutral experts at all those marketing functions that brands just can’t afford to bring in-house…aren’t they ?
Agency service and support is certainly evolving at a faster pace than ever before. Agencies can probably offer a suite of services that could fill a whole page, such has the marketing world expanded and fragmented since the more simple days of offering creative, account management and a media department. But being jacks of all trades and masters of none risks diluting the very U.S.P. that agencies claim to offer: expertise. It’s a difficult rope for agencies to walk and so quite rightly, most have chosen to stick to doing what they do best and concentrating on only core areas of expertise; after all, that’s probably why they got hired in the first place.
But now there is a need for agencies to start a new approach to client service that reflects their needs in today’s ever-changing media landscape. We have seen such agency model evolutions before; back in the 90’s the value of paid media expertise married to brilliant creative execution was recognised as the Media giants formed. Along came the rise of account planning, and the recognition of the need for communications to be planned harmoniously across marketing disciplines. Then the internet turned up, and in the digital land-grab when it was realised that a website was not the ultimate marketing nirvana first promised, clients were left with having to knock at multiple agency doors just to build a team of people able to construct a visible presence for them online, whatever their brand’s needs or peculiarities.
Now might be the time for the next wave – a consolidation of all of that fragmented digital expertise back into a centralised and consolidated centre of excellence. One of the biggest ‘missing links’ in the offer from digital communications agencies has been the absence of Paid media expertise, with it primarily residing in the hands of the media giants or in boutique specialists. But the remarkable shift that the rise of Social media has brought makes the marriage of social acumen with buying expertise a natural selection. Social allows brands to use any type of content to amplify their message, from the good old but expensive TV spot to the pure madness of user generated video that would never have been conceived at the creative stage. But often brands miss the chance to amplify this new content simply because the Social guy sits in Old Street and the Media guy sits in Soho. If they sat together, and studied the organic and the paid analytics at the same time, decisions to support or retire content can be made daily.
But good paid media only works with good insight too. Therefore, housing social expertise with dynamic research in order to fuel instant and reactive paid media decisions makes, well, just good sense. Way To Blue has brought these fields of expertise together to deliver finely targeted and executed ‘Social + Paid’ campaigns for their clients, and we are discovering completely new marketing paradigms that the tried and tested norms of the marketing industry simply cannot deliver. One of the biggest wins is that we are able to demonstrate an accountable monetary value to what has long been known as ‘Earned’ media; for the first time clients are being told exactly how much they’ve earned for all of their hard work. With the dynamism of Way To Blue’s PR and Creative teams in-house too, we are on the way to re-forming the look and fundamental service of what a client has come to expect from its Digital agency.
So, next steps for a client looking to de-complicate its online presence should now be to push for consolidation in its digital supply chain. There is no need for expertise to be housed in different places because each service needs to and should work harmoniously with all the others. Colleagues and friends on LinkedIn have been good enough to recommend me for my proficiency in 28 different marketing skills; they are very kind, but I only get hired for my expertise in one area really – helping advertisers to see the big picture and work out that their marketing needs are really quite discreet – and that’s why I believe agencies should now be marketing themselves that way too.