Is Your Media Agency Operating at the Speed of Culture?

Planning will determine your future in the digital era

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We've all become quite comfortable acknowledging what's now a widely adopted common truth—the velocity of change in modern media culture is so fundamentally disruptive that adapting to the shift is no longer a matter of choice but an absolute necessity for marketers' long-term sustainability and survival. Or as Apple eloquently, and succinctly, stated ahead of the iPhone 6s launch: "The only thing that's changed is everything."

Gian LaVecchia Illustration: Alex Fine/Snyder

Of course, that's a moderately daunting concept for some marketers, but there's no doubting that the broader societal impact of this culture shift has been profound. Today, we find ourselves witnessing the emergence of Generation Z, an audience that has been culturally engineered to navigate the dynamics of the new normal, equipped with a mobile-first sensibility, an elevated level of social media fluency that transcends standard forms of communication (e.g., emojis, snaps) and an inherent expectation that content can, and should be, accessible everywhere and at anytime.

It's this sustained depth of media "addiction" that is fueling an optimistic, albeit cautious energy across the broader industry. It's why in this moment of inevitable transition, media agencies are uniquely poised to harness their core strengths of ad tech, data science and content to help brands consistently break through and elevate the strategic caliber, creative distinction and overall effectiveness of their work moving forward. If your media agency isn't, then you've clearly got some questions to ask it.

Modern CMOs have long understood the value of content within their marketing portfolio, and its rapid ascension as one of the most culturally vibrant assets within the broader mix is not surprising at all. As the demand for high-quality content experiences continues to expand, a clear business need has emerged for brands to drive tighter strategic alignment and coordination across their broader marketing ecosystem.

It's in this quickly evolving space where media agencies are best positioned to help brands drive greater connectivity across an increasingly complex world of atomized content experiences that extend across an ever-expanding canvas of social and digital platforms (such as Snapchat, Vine, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Periscope, YouTube) and formats (video, photos, GIFs, cinemagraphs, livestreams).

Today's most recognized and breakthrough marketers, such as Nike, Honda, Chipotle and Red Bull, have long embraced the principles of ecosystem design in crafting diverse, highly engaging and connected brand experiences. For example, Nike's visually provocative storytelling approach is elegantly woven across multiple business units (e.g., @Nike, @nikefootball) and brand initiatives (e.g., #justdoit, #nikewomen), ensuring the distinctive brand ambition and essence are consistently activated regardless of format, screen or point of access. Nike's brilliant creative approach combined with a thoughtful application of audience data (e.g., behavioral, platform, social) helps ensure the company remains at the forefront of modern marketing.

So, how is your media agency delivering on these new emerging priorities?

The reality is that this elevated level of strategic consultation requires new hybrid skill sets and integration models that borrow aspects from content strategy, experience design, data applications and creative storytelling—greatly influencing the type of talent the industry needs to attract in the immediate future. In order to best seize the opportunity at hand, as an industry we need to quickly redefine the core skill sets that are needed and deploy teams with greater precision and purpose to help drive elevated relevance, audience engagement and performance accountability across clients' full spectrum of marketing.

Operating at the speed of culture also requires us to explore new planning models, suggesting adaptive design principles may have a clear role in our future programming efforts. Specifically, your media agency should be equipped to quickly operationalize the real-time capture and application of live data signals across the entire marketing ecosystem, to help your brand further establish and reinforce clear competitive distinction. Emphasizing intelligent, micro-applications of data not only drives more creative risk-taking, but it also can inspire brilliant usage of emerging tech including dynamic creative experiences, interactive video and thoughtful creative sequencing techniques that deliver more tangible relevance for your audiences.

It goes without saying that we are all quite fortunate to be working within one of the most intellectually vibrant and fast-moving industries on the planet. It's in these precise moments of uncertainty that opportunities emerge, and in this new-market reality, the role of the media agency has never been more critical.

—Gian LaVecchia is managing partner, digital content marketing, at MEC North America.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 9 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.