Agencies see their role shifting away from pushing messages at consumers, toward creating and managing consumer experiences on behalf of clients.
To support that role and differentiate their services, agencies are adding strategic consulting, ideation, and user-experience design capabilities. This also means agencies need to adapt their business models, refine internal processes, and, most important, redefine the value they offer to clients.
But clients don’t always see how their marketing agencies have changed. Too often (from their viewpoint), they pay an agency to create and run campaigns—same as always. They treat marketing as an expense, not a business-enabler. The agency is valued according to its creative output, often measured in Clios and Lions Awards. Unfortunately, this way of thinking squeezes agencies toward a low-margin, unstable business model where value is claimed rather than proved, pricing approaches commodity levels, and clients can be as fickle as awards juries.
But the shift to integrated, two-way campaigns offers agencies a way out of the trap. These “storytelling” campaigns don’t just create impressions; they draw data from every consumer interaction over paid, owned, or earned media. Agencies that are savvy about collecting and using this “Big Data” information can take a more strategic role with their clients, show them where investments will produce maximum business return, prove that their services create business—and they contribute real value.
To accomplish all of this, agencies need to be careful to collect, report, and apply data that are relevant and actionable to the client’s marketing and business objectives. And it goes without saying that there needs to be an acceptance to report any bad results along with the good to maintain the client’s trust. It’s worth the extra effort—data is the key to transforming the agency-client relationship from a low-margin, campaigns-and-projects model to a strategic consulting relationship based on continuous optimization and targeting.
Read Bertil Snel's previous guest post, "Storytelling—Not Digital—Is Transforming The Creative Industry."