I’m getting married in a month, so naturally I’ve had a lot of time to think about the concept of choosing a partner. In most personal relationships, people look to partner with those who support them, who push them and challenge them, and who offer counsel and compatibility. In business, the best and most productive relationships are those that are based on trust and aligned incentives, and that drive value for both parties.
Given the changes that are happening in advertising – from fractured viewership to accelerated technology adoption and more – I’d like to take a moment to explore what the concept of partnership needs to look like for marketers, agencies, and technology companies now.
Having come from an agency background myself (first in national broadcast TV buying and then, in traditional account management at a creative agency), I’ve been a vocal proponent for the role of the agency to shift from vendor manager to true business consultant. Industry people love to draw comparisons to the “Mad Men era,” saying the time of three-martini lunches is over and done with. But it runs so much deeper than that.
The Mad Men era is over and done with because we’ve made progress (civil rights progress, women’s rights progress, and most relevant to this post – technology progress). From ad serving to conversion attribution, app download tracking and viewability, the world we function in is more measurable than ever, and any marketer not yet holding his or her budget accountable for real performance is due for an awakening.
Marketing is more complicated now than ever before, and because of that, agencies need to look more like consultancies. At their core, agencies are in the client service business. But the shape of the service they provide needs to adapt to the speed of technology, and the scope of what a client expects from an agency should adapt too. Providing value solely in managing hundreds of insertion orders with dozens of vendors won’t cut it anymore – marketers expect technology-powered, data driven programmatic solutions from their agency partners now. Reach or CTR don’t cut it as metrics to measure against anymore. Not when we can tie offline sales to online activity, track app downloads, and measure digital GRPs against core audiences. Marketers should be looking to partner with technology-savvy agencies who drive value in the form of tangible performance and actionable customer insights.