It's Time: Search, Advertising Agencies Must Bend

Agencies need to "bend their thinking" and become more flexible with their rules. Fernando Bazan Athie, emarketing supervisor in LATAM at 3M, has stepped up to challenge agencies to personalize their contracts to work more closely with brands -- at least in Latin America, where he supports six brands and more than 36 brand and country Web sites.

"Brands need to challenge the agencies," Bazan Athie told attendees Wednesday at the MediaPost Search Insider Summit. "They come to us with a contract, but it's just a template. You have to be flexible with us and understand our need."

It took three years to develop 3M's agency model, per Bazan Athie. In the first year that 3M learned its needs. The second focused on implementation. "In the third year we made big decisions about teaching and learning," he said.

Initially, the company worked with more than a dozen smaller agencies. It now works with two: iCherry in Brazil and a yet-to-be-named agency. The relationship went through three stages. The first required 3M to trust in the agency to support the campaigns. The second stage focused on merging content generation and Web site optimization with the investment. Bazan Athie said 3M's team now sits with their agencies as a key part of the annual planning strategy. It has paid off.

The U.S. strategy doesn't work in Latin America, mainly because the branding and consumer awareness of products doesn't exist. Through the partnership with its agency, 3M put investments into connecting with consumers through their needs, rather than the branded term.

For starters, 3M Latin America doubled its search investment in 2013. During that year the division saw a 109% increase in Web traffic vs. 2012, with 70% of the traffic coming from search engines based on using 4% of branded terms and the remainder non-branded. The company also saw a 55% increase in organic search, 72% increase in click-through rates, and 31% lower cost per click.

Bazan Athie said it's still about building awareness for its products. He admits that Latin America lags North America by about 10 years in terms of understanding search marketing, but agencies need to view this as an opportunity to become more flexible, rather than a challenge.

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