Bridging marketing to the new age of advertising

Posted 12 October 2017.

​By Ben Goodale, Managing Director, justONE

It’s been a season of conferences, and one of the topics of rumination has been the role of agencies. I was fortunate enough to attend the Media and Marketing Summit in Melbourne recently, and of course Auckland saw the Direct Marketing Conference last month.

Both included some quite strident opinion, which is always good to get the blood flowing. For example, in Melbourne we saw panels debate the evolution of agencies to meet the digital age, but also harking back to one of the fundamental offerings of agencies which, of course, is great creative work – and increasingly important in an age where there is so much fragmentation and where creative cut-through will elevate brands from the sea of sameness.

This was a fascinating counterpoint to the DM Conference in Auckland where one speaker claimed (possibly to gasps of horror in the audience) that maybe agencies wouldn’t be needed soon, as they could do everything in-house themselves. Clearly, this speaker hadn’t got the memo about the value of creative excellence or was under the impression that the great creatives of the age want to work for them in-house.

What was amusing was that this latter point was (to adopt an old Glasgow phrase) the “talk o’ the steamie” during the lunch break. Most opinion seemed to be that the speaker was hopelessly naïve, whilst doubtless some were eagerly rubbing their hands thinking how much they could save on agency fees in the future.

But in Melbourne the conversation was very different. The really interesting (and interlinked) theme of the Summit was the changing face of the agency model, or more specifically, the now popular notion that ‘specialist agencies are back’. Whilst this concept isn’t new (as the best agencies are usually consultancies too), various CMOs and agency heads discussed how new ways of thinking are forcing the traditional agency to evolve, and how that’s a good and exciting thing.

For example, nowadays, the role of a media agency is no longer just buying media; a creative agency can somehow easily morph into a media agency, and a media agency can become a digital shop. The list goes on (and on).

So, is this the new agency model as we know it? Do communications and advertising businesses need to become more specialised in order to compete on an expertise level? Are we entering an age of consultancy ‘fiefdoms’? And, let’s face it, does this feel like groundhog day?

We’re seeing some significant client shifts in the media, advertising, and marketing landscape here in New Zealand, but none showing a clear pattern. One minute a major financial services organisation opts for an agency specialist model, the next, a telco for a solo agency relationship.

What isn’t happening is opting for no agency. Clearly, New Zealand’s leading marketers deeply value the expertise that the right agency (or agencies) can bring to their business.

One area where agencies can help, other than creative, is with the complicated stuff. For instance, the growth in digital channels and big data (another big buzzword bandied around at the Summit), is starting to disrupt the way businesses deliver marketing messages, with technology allowing engagement at a much greater scale.

That said, marketers’ excitement about this tends to massively overreach the capability for their systems and internal teams to deliver on it; it’s one area where agencies can be useful to plug those gaps and deliver ‘instant’ solutions while organisations build internal capability.

With data analysis and insight being the next frontier for most businesses, agencies and organisations across all industries will no doubt be looking to beef up their data-driven strategic capabilities, investing in talent to better service this skillset. It reinforces the fact that as we push forward into the digital realm, specific expertise in technical and analytical knowledge will continue to alter the nature of marketing agencies for years to come.

This is exciting because this new age of advertising allows us to fundamentally deliver CRM at scale – if not immediately for everyone, then certainly over the next wee while. We welcome the future and see the value of agencies having a significant lifespan – helping bridge New Zealand organisations to the new age.