Agencies Need Their Strategists

I receive all sorts of junk mail. In amongst the ones congratulating me on being voted an International Woman of Distinction, and the un-turn-down-able offers to train to be a certified nurse are those selling me various ‘sophisticated’ email marketing services. Just the thing for my business you would have thought, although the authors do rather let themselves down by addressing me by the wrong name, and assuming BJ&A sells manufacturing equipment.

Physician heal thyself, as an agency trader would no doubt have said, albeit in algorithmic form.

Some of my agency (and ex-agency) friends could perhaps take on board the advice they give to others.

Now, before the phone starts ringing let me say that there are more than a few commentators out there who are excellent. I always read and appreciate Rob Norman’s stuff (even if I don’t always understand it), Simon Andrews’ Mobile Fix is great and I think the ID Comms video posts are entertaining and insightful.

But set against these there is a lot of stuff from agency folk telling advertisers what they should do, how they should market, how they’re missing opportunities by sticking to tedious things like TV when there are so many more exciting digital things out there. How they’re getting everything wrong.

Maybe these knowledgeable folk should be using their huge brains to solve the industry’s and their agencies’ issues? Maybe they’re doing so already, but I rather doubt it.

Let’s take stock. We are living through a time when advertisers’ trust in and respect for their media agencies has never been lower.

A time when the advertisers’ trade body in the largest ad market in the world, prompted by their members’ legitimate concerns around deal transparency has seen fit to hire two consultants to investigate how media agencies spend their clients’ budgets.

When ad fraud is costing advertisers huge amounts of money.

When adblockers are used by (pick your number) between 25% and 50% of consumers as a way of indicating their dislike of many digital campaigns.

When the technology tax, the cost of all those specialists jamming up the highway between advertiser and publisher, is siphoning such a huge amount of money out of the system that already cash-strapped publishers are facing enormous difficulties.

Media agencies contain some very smart people. Many spend their days planning the best possible campaigns for their clients, measuring the results and doing even better the next time.

Others are expert at data analytics and all the technology available to help their clients make the best use of all those numbers.

Still others are geniuses at finding ways of making money, sometimes over and above the business needs of their advertisers.

As one head of trading said to a planner of my acquaintance (and I paraphrase): ‘You may win the business by talking about how clever you are, but don’t forget it’s me that makes the money that pays your wages’.

Agency planners and strategists can and do bring value and benefits to their clients, but they seem unable (by their own admission) to justify being properly paid for them.

Those that use social media to point out the shortcomings of others could have a go at addressing some pretty serious internal issues.

One issue is the different priorities of planners and traders. As Mediacom’s Sue Unerman (another of the good guys) reminded us all the other week: “There’s an overriding need to focus on (the) customer needs..”

Customer needs versus agency margin requirements. A gap that needs closing.

 

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