Marketing today is about being 24*7 because our brands are ’always on’. If something happens in the night and there’s no reaction until morning that is a lifetime to a consumer.” This means that we have to find a way wherein response is translated into creative and rolled out into execution on the fly. It also means that marketers need to move from outbound messages to a more holistic 360-degree approach, from campaigns to experiences, from audiences to individuals. This calls for “adaptive marketing” wherein interactions are about generating conversations that stimulate participation and call for action.
It is also no longer about telling stories , it is about getting others to tell them for us and in the process build up cohesive experiences by listening, connecting and responding in a manner that creates valuable long lasting relationships. Also any approach to interaction has to stay attentive to the ongoing dialog that takes place with or without the brand’s participation.
In such a scenario where does the Agency stand? Especially when its DNA and core competence is embedded in strategy and creating the “big ideas” and then simply driving its creative execution through mass campaigns. (in the standard out bound way of the past…)
But while ideas continue to be central in the new marketing landscape they need to be quickly developed and converted into real, meaningful and engaging interactions from a customer perspective. As Forrester say, “Customer interactions are becoming become more prominent than campaigns.”
Interaction is the process of converting ideas into experiences and this happens to be changing most radically. While interaction earlier used to be the consumption of messaging, mostly through traditional channels like broadcast and print., today with the explosion of channels, devices and emerging media, interaction is highly dependent on technology to bring the “big idea” to life.
All messaging needs now to be flexible enough to be adaptable to various media. They can’t be just confined to the big idea for ideas today have to work across numerous platforms. The creative of today has to be flexible yet media specific. There is no more taking one idea and replicating it on everything from TV to YouTube to mobile. In fact even platform specific content may have to change on the fly in response to the real time web. Marketers and agencies in such an environ need to master a new skill called “ Agility” whichs is possible only by leveraging technology enabled execution.
This is the area where agencies seem to be challenged. Their operating structures and organizations globally are driven by their creative resources that are most far placed from “execution” and lack ability to roll out the big ideas into media specific messaging that can have an impact in the market place within narrow timelines.
While much of the process of coming up with the creative is still very much a right brain exercise, demanding talent, experience and the ability to communicate, the question is of who do you communicate with, how, when and with what message which is at the heart of customer intelligence or what one could describe as left brain marketing. Customer intelligence is thus increasingly becoming the core of every action, experience and program that the agencies promote, marketers adopt and businesses demand.
Agencies therefore can no longer hide behind the big idea or the visually arresting creative treatment alone., unless they provide experiences that they, together with the marketer can build, execute, support and track. If not,, they cannot remain central in a highly digitalized world.
Any agency that does not also understand and value the role of data, research and measurement will not be able to deliver success to their clients. And any marketer who does not demand measurable success from their agencies will not be able to translate those marketing metrics into the business metrics that drive a company’s growth and profitability in an efficient way.
A marketing director of a global consumer bank once said “We need creative ideas from our agencies that can be executed cheaply and there will be more opportunities for bespoke work if an idea can connect with consumers quickly. Agencies are not delivering integrated thinking. Agency people talk that language but few deliver it. Big agencies make most of their money from TV and that alone drives them”
To change this, agencies need to rewrite their DNAs which may not be the most optimal situation or else partner with marketing technology organizations that can compliment the agencies to leverage that partnership to help the marketer drive marketing experiences in the most efficient and cost effective manner. The time for a “Connected Agency”.has arrived
Marketers also need to take the reigns and push their agencies to build up collaborative partnerships or else ask themselves “ Is it time for us to dis-intermediate the agency and have them focus on their core competence - marketing consulting and creative ” and then directly bring in marketing technology organizations to work with the marketers and their agencies to drive efficient execution and experiences that close the consumer loop.