In the new world order of customer-led marketing, relevance is the name of the game — people expect marketers to deliver the right message, at the right time, in the right context, to the right device. They expect those messages, experiences and offers to become ever more real-time, seamless across digital and physical, and finely tuned with each interaction. It is part of the deal between brands and their customers now; people let brands into their lives for the price of relevance.
But for agencies to maintain their relevance through one of the most radical transformations marketing and advertising has ever experienced, the realities of the modern media and technology landscape need to be meaningfully addressed by agency leaders. A fresh coat of paint and a few “specialists” on the fringes will no longer do. Agency evolution needs to be foundational.
The omni-channel world
The advertising business is teeming with buzzwords and slang. “Omni-channel” has been one of them for a while now. Hyper Island has been talking about it for 10 years or more, but they weren’t using it as a buzzword; they were using it as a warning. People move seamlessly between digital platforms and the physical world — often blurring it all via mobile — and they expect brand experiences to deliver that same seamlessness. Agencies must help their clients bridge the channel gaps. It’s easier said than done, because the agency solution has to be more than simply matching creative luggage across touch-points. Real strategic contribution is helping clients solve their technology and data infrastructure issues. To provide value to clients, agencies need to contribute the perspective and counsel of a system integrator.
The marketing OS
The omni-channel world fundamentally changes the definition of integration. As previously stated, integration can no longer mean a collection of related content across channels, held together by the premise of a brand. Integrated thinking needs to happen underneath a brand’s presentation in the marketplace, in the systems and the data — the lifeblood of the marketing OS. Agencies need to get their heads around their client’s marketing technology infrastructures. Where are the data entry points? What data is available? How is it connected and what does it make possible? When an agency knows the ins and outs of its client’s marketing technology infrastructure, it can fully exploit it in the integrated marketing ideas it brings forward.
The proliferation of addressable media
The idea of addressable media isn’t new, but over time, new means of addressability have been added to the marketing arsenal. Addressability within social channels is now the norm, and also the expectation. Brands obviously can no longer merely listen and observe in social, nor can they consider social another mass channel for reach. Increasingly, people expect brands to respond to them individually, in their social channel of choice, in near real-time.
In fact, the near future of the television network looks a lot like an app. Again, this means that a channel once considered the premier mass medium can be used to address the individual. To handle the complexity and sheer volume that comes hand-in-hand with personalization, media agencies will have to accept the reality of automation. Decision engines and content management systems must become part of the creative solution.
As with most things in life, expectation tends to outpace reality. And people’s expectation is that their experience with a brand will be a seamless, personalized, highly relevant collection of communications and services. The reality is that there is still too much friction in a customer’s journey with a brand, too many dead-ends, too many uninformed appendages of the total experience.
For agencies to maintain their relevance with marketers, big changes need to be made in how they think about what is important to their clients, the services they need to bring to bear and the approaches and tools they use to create modern brand experiences across the omni-channel marketing ecosystem. It is forever the reality we’re now operating in.
Greg Andersen is managing director of RAPP’s Los Angeles office and has been with the global integrated-agency since 2013. Greg has nearly 25 years of experience in account management and strategic planning, giving him a balanced perspective on business and brand building.