A large number of advertising and marketing agencies have found themselves recently stuck in a paralysis-by-analysis mode: their old, tired and traditional business models are no longer working for them or their clients. To make matters worse, they can’t attract or retain top-shelf talent and their work life just ain’t as cool, fun or profitable as it used to be back in the day. They feel they need to do something but don’t know how, or are just too afraid to make changes. Five or six years ago, I clearly saw the writing on the wall and decided it was time to find a new and better way to deliver value.
The growth of digital (and now the explosion of data) has forever changed how we, in the marketing world, need to deliver value for our clients. The successful agency model, for now and the foreseeable future, must fuse-and-use creativity and technology together as a single, newly-honed tool. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the way we even define creativity needs to change. We are no longer in the advertising business - we are data-driven developers and distributors of highly personalized, relevant customer experiences.
Another growing threat to traditional model agencies and marketers are publishers and broadcasters. Rather than allowing the agencies their legacy middleman position, these forward-thinking content producers and distributors are successfully cultivating their own in-house agency services. These (typically) media networks already own the highly valuable data on the viewers and readers who consume and follow them. The value of their data set and the ability to make it actionable are becoming very lucrative parts of their business model. As a perfect example mirroring this trend, The New York Times’ T-Brand Studio in-house agency has quickly scaled to a $60 million-and-growing business.
Rather than getting in the way of creativity, data should be recognized for what it really has become through analytics: a powerful new tool allowing for the creation of highly specific content relevant to a targeted audience. The use of such data enhancements delivers deeper insights into buyer behavior on personalized, emotional levels. This understanding becomes the basis of developing a higher level of relevant and stimulating content for marketers while also accurately measuring audience engagement in real time. Finally, it provides the basis for what content is served up next to the consumer as they make their way along their path to purchase.
We should all recognize that data (and its analysis) has become invisibly woven into our daily lives. It should be no surprise then that the ‘art’ of marketing has also become infused with hard, measurable science and this has been met with some resistance by those in the field. Companies that rise to meet the change can now expect to turn information into insight and insight into action - in real time to enable marketers to harness the true power of data. This ability to deliver highly personalized, real-time, data-driven customer experiences will define marketing and business success in the coming years.
Those firms that lead their clients into this brave new world of sales enablement will become valuable partners while the agencies that stick to traditional models may go the way of landline phones, Blockbuster and BlackBerry.