Guest Column: Ad agencies must reinvent by creating trust, transparency and purpose
I will begin by making two statements which might be somewhat provocative and will try and connect those through the following words in this article. One, Advertising agencies must reinvent by creating trust, transparency and purpose with a product rooted on insightful ideas and implementable technology. Two, Many clients do not even have A content strategy.
Agencies survive by "selling" their specializations and services to their clients .............
My last published article in Impact Magazine was titled "Hello brand you shout, I hear and I forget until you shout again. Soon you will become irrelevant in my life - Your consumer". Many agencies do tell their clients that the consumers do not want brands selling to them. But the same agencies survive by "selling" their specializations and services to their clients. When bonus structures in agencies are decided based on "up-sell" and "cross sell", it can be left to anyone's imagination as to why bridges of relevance have not been built between clients and agencies. 1900 global business leaders recently echoed in a survey that agencies struggle to prove their value.
We are currently at an intersection of marketing "with" and marketing "for" people. And brand needs to be the focal point than ever before. Brands must not only have a purpose, but also need to stay true to that purpose. A brand will impact everything in an organization including the most important asset - human capital. I did a random survey across 11 different organizations to ask people what their company's brands stood for. The results only validated my hypothesis that the vision and value statements
remain only pinned up on soft boards. Marketers lacking the right anticipation and navigation advice, forget such real content as the agencies make them run behind content such as AFPs (Advertiser Funded Programmes) where the agency revenue is protected.
A large advertiser invited media owners to their campus to discuss opportunities for their brands to move from the 12 minutes of "advertising" time into content. But as I said earlier, I do not believe many clients have what I call a content strategy. Content is not just a video, or a TV ad being played in a living room setting on a serial. An E-mail from the CEO, a tweet or a blog, employee initiatives, some which might have a consumer benefit angle are all content.
Imagination is dying out and disruptive thinking is a huge challenge
Agencies need to have a thought out content strategies for their clients and should selflessly advices the clients not to forget the power of 1000 well-aligned employees of the company with social connections rather than hurrying- up to produce video content. But the truth is agencies are currently focused on the ad film by the creative team, buying media space by media team, buying digital space by digital team, mobile space by mobile team, ooh by ooh team and leave the client splitting his hair apart for solutions for his "brand" as a whole. This is indeed what specialization has done. Imagination is dying out and disruptive thinking is a huge
challenge. I have been part of many award juries and have seen similar thinking getting recycled.
When an AirBnB or Uber or Ola or Flipkart or even Facebook have set up multi billion dollar business disruptively based on human insights and aggregation models or Google which makes billion dollars on ad words based on a meeting point for an intent and a potential transaction, are agencies even thinking about how the business of their clients who have invested in retail real estates can be protected beyond the advice to start e-commerce channels or if they have traditional media houses as clients how can agencies help them protect their diminishing ad revenue which can also perhaps become useful for consumers and brands. A traditional media house can potentially challenge Google with intentions and real transactions instead of potential transactions.
Advertisers will react if their agency partners are not aligned to their ambitions, particularly when the number of ad avoiders is set to double in two years. 25 billion dollars of business going under pitch is one such reaction. The disruptive thinking which is the need of the hour is also making brand owners like Coke get a creative agency into their media review and they say they are not only reviewing their agencies but the agency model itself.
Agencies have to first have meaningful conversations with their clients to make them understand that the easy transaction led route of consumer connection where brands fall on top of each other, screaming "come and buy me" based on computer algorithms of Share of Voice (SoV) and Share of Expenditure (SoE) is producing diminishing returns because the consumer journey through the linear purchase funnel, from preference to purchase do not exist any longer. The earlier this reality is embraced, the faster one
can get to measure a different SoV and SoE, which according to me is Share of Vision (brand to consumers) and Share of Empathy (consumers to brands)
In the future, the concept of AoR (Agency on Record) will mean, while the clients will work with large media agencies for their systems and muscle in terms of media buying and deployment, they will also create associations with smaller nimble players with brilliant ideas and technology led support for their brands to stay relevant and build better consumer loyalty.
The Author is Ex -Managing Director, Vizeum India (Dentsu Aegis Group). He recently, after a 6 year stint, quit to set up a disruptive brand-consumer connection service. Through a series of articles in e4m, beginning with this, he promises to explore brand building in the digital era where story telling meets with content and technology.
(The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in anyway represent the views of the publication)
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