Not too long ago, media agencies were a necessary first stop for any brand that hoped to connect with its target customers. Only the agency had the information necessary to create an intelligent media plan or the relationships and cost-efficiency (due to their ability to make aggregate media purchases) required to place a buy with the appropriate networks and publishers.
But with the rise of programmatic advertising, along with machine learning/AI that is transforming the world of digital marketing, automation is forcing agencies to re-evaluate their place in the media ecosystem. After all, today’s brands have their own data for understanding customers, and a growing number of them are even buying their own media via programmatic technology. At a time when advertisers have the ability to plan and execute campaigns all on their own, agencies must find new ways of providing value to their customers.
Fortunately, programmatic presents several new opportunities for agencies to enhance their clients’ campaigns. By leveraging their vast knowledge of the digital ecosystem and training themselves in the finer points of programmatic, these firms have a major opportunity to deliver valuable consultative services to brands of all stripes. All it will take is some hard work and a little bit of creativity.
The modern agency must rededicate itself to strategy
Just because a brand can plan its own campaign doesn’t mean it will get the best results without assistance. Media agencies are uniquely situated to offer valuable advice for navigating the many channels of digital marketing.
From rich media to virtual reality, digital media is always creating new ways for advertisers to reach their customers. By staying up on emerging formats, as well as the data and buying platforms associated with them, agencies can play a crucial role in helping their clients make smart decisions.
Agencies can guide clients through the increasingly complex ad-tech marketplace
In recent years, brands have taken full control over their relationships with ad-tech vendors. Far from leaving agencies out in the cold, these arrangements can create a space for them to evolve into irreplaceable technology advisors.
By combining their knowledge of a client’s distinct marketing goals with a deep understanding of the ad-tech landscape, agencies can help brands choose the right partners from an increasingly crowded pool of DSPs, DMPs and other vendors.
Once those partners are selected, agencies can deliver further value by helping clients coordinate with them. For instance, IPG’s Cadreon ad-tech unit works with brands to estimate reach when they run campaigns across platforms that are incompatible with one another
Data is an asset, and agencies should treat it that way
While it’s true that brands have more access to customer information than ever before, a savvy agency with the right personnel will be able to help them get more out of their data.
Already, best-of-breed agencies like M1, GroupM’s [M]Platform and IPG are collecting granular data from every campaign they run. Then, they use data science to generate insights that allow them to run smarter campaigns. As an example, Xaxis’ internal artificial intelligence team builds complex, real-time algorithms to determine how much each ad impression will be worth to a given client based on how the user has responded to previous ads.
What also drives insights is a solid data strategy. Start by looking at what is available—on the client websites, third-party data from DMPs, contextual data such as weather, time of day or year, location, language—all of which can be used to “trigger” personalized creative that can speak to everything from a consumer’s interests to the weather conditions they are experiencing outside their door. And if we choose to automate personalized dynamic creative optimization, or DCO, we need intelligent data to train AI, from which we will get intelligent recommendations.
Above all, media agencies must make sure that any advice they give is grounded in a data analysis that shows clients how they came to their decision.
Agencies must start with a self-assessment, then take action
As programmatic technology becomes more widespread, it will become more urgent for media agencies to reimagine how they service clients.
These firms can begin this crucial transition by making a realistic assessment of the value they deliver to brands. By focusing on their current services and personnel, agencies will soon discover new opportunities for strategic partnerships and new skills with which to train their workforce.
For agencies, the days of simply buying and selling media are quickly coming to an end. But for those willing to develop a deep expertise in data, strategy and technology, the days of being a valued brand consultant are only just beginning.