Whenever brands bring their advertising team in-house or major advertising ecosystems try to court brands directly, the heralds cry harbingers of doom for the ad agency. Yet here we are: it’s 2016, and though some agencies have come and gone, many have never wavered, and are still tangible, thriving parts of the equation.
Automation, especially through programmatic advertising, isn’t so much as a threat to media buying as it is a call to action to add value and efficiency to campaigns. What automation does threaten is the old way of doing business. To thrive, the agency of the future must embrace the rapidly shifting dynamic and merge the tech side with their creative talent for an incredibly strong advantage.
Advertising will always have unique challenges that machines can’t fix. And that demands creative, strategic problem solvers. Programmatic expertise, data-driven thinking, and a strong purpose are how agencies can remain relevant for a long time.
Deep programmatic expertise
By 2017, US display programmatic ad spend is expected to reach $26.78B. What’s more interesting to agencies planning for the future is where else programmatic is projected to gain market share.
Programmatic TV, for example, is expected to be a $17.3B market by 2019. Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all invested in helping native ads go programmatic. Though growth has been slow, there’s big potential in programmatic audio. All this points to the convergence of advertising’s fragments, culminating in true cross-device targeting.
It’s not enough anymore to understand how and why programmatic advertising works. A deep understanding of what programmatic is and where it’s going enables agencies to evolve for the future.
Data-driven creative optimization
Data tells us who should see which ad, but it’s no longer enough to consider trading desks as the only piece of the agency programmatic puzzle. Agencies must embrace data as a two-way street.
For the last century, advertising creative relied on Mad Men gut instinct, driven forward by the most intuitive professionals in the business. With all of the first-party data we have at our disposal, we know that intuition no longer satisfies the question of how your creative assets resonate with your audience. Agencies that use data to optimize ad creative are ahead of the game.
In many cases, technology has forced hiring to favor generalists over specialists. Today’s copywriters and designers need basic analytical skills and the ability to bridge the gap between siloes. The people in charge of creative assets should be able to take insights from ad performance and translate them to actionable improvements, thus creating a feedback loop that leads to stronger engagement.
Carefully communicated purpose
It’s not enough for an organization to hire or train for the world of programmatic. At the heart of any successful paradigm shift is a cohesive purpose. Strictly defining how this changes your agency or team’s value prop is a critical part of the process.
Most agencies get this. A clearly defined and articulated mission helps your team work together towards a common goal. It helps avoid client confusion by clarifying why it’s necessary to shift direction and sets the tone for a proactive and forward-thinking approach to advertising strategy. It’s just a matter of redefining the outdated elements to come to a common understanding.
No matter what part of the advertising ecosystem you represent, agencies will continue to play a core role as programmatic continues to rise. What’s most critical to agency success is a forward-thinking vision to keep up their pace with the rapidly evolving advertising industry. Combining their irreplaceable creative talents with determined, data-driven technology are core to the advancement of any agency.