The Agency Of The Future--Or, Now What?
So you figured out search. You launched an affiliate program. You commissioned some amazing display units to run in banners, skyscrapers and L-Rec's. You built a profile page on MySpace. You did a partnership with one of the portals, and your Web site was featured in a movie. You may have even partnered with a mobile provider.
So now what?
Every few months, there's a new technology or a new tool launched that allows you to reach your customers in an exciting manner which "breaks through the clutter"--but not all of them are appropriate for your client or your brand. How do you make sense of all these twists and turns in the life of a media consumer? How do you decide what and what not to include? How do you navigate the open seas of marketing, so to speak?
It's not a new idea, but you need to become agnostic again and identify which of the new technologies and strategies are relevant. You need to rise above the cacophony of traditional and digital marketing and identify the tactical elements that are in harmony with your strategy. You need to analyze the porosity of the tools you're looking to utilize, and see which filter out the unwanted audience members and allow you to reach only those you intended to reach.
Not every new tool or development will be appropriate. Not every new idea is applicable, but you can't ignore them. Without third parties examining these elements and trying to determine what works and what doesn't, your marketing becomes stale, and you get lost in the race to garner the attention of the consumer.
There's been much written about the state of the agency world over the last few months, as a number of really intelligent people have recently fled the agency world and run to the safe haven of client-side marketing. I for one considered this tactic--and realized that those exciting new technologies and ideas were why I couldn't quite leave the agency world behind yet.
These third parties are needed to evaluate the changing landscape. If you want to get the most out of the agency of the future, challenge it. Ask it for a POV on new technology. Don't just ask it for the same old retread of what's been done before. Push the envelope and push your business forward!
I think that for all the beatings agencies have taken over the past few years due to the repeated jabs from procurement specialists and tightfisted Mike Tyson-like budgeting, agencies are still the only ones capable of seeing the bigger picture through the trees. Media buying may be commoditized and creative may be squeezed, but I still see the agencies as the potential for an un-biased third party who can provide a no-holds-barred look at what needs to be done. They can help you evaluate these new trends if you allow them the freedom and push them for innovation. Your client-side team may be good, but they get mired in the details of the day-to-day. Use that outside force for what it was meant to be used for.
The agency is going to evolve to become a business partner rather than a marketing partner. Your agency should not only provide you with a campaign recommendation--but it should also provide you with projections and business analysis that demonstrates the kind of impact these efforts will have on driving the only thing that truly matters to any marketer: sales!
The agency of the future will be integrated into your business beyond the development of media and creative campaigns. The agency of the future will be able to answer the question, "Now what?" The agency of the future should be able to provide you with a bleeding edge analysis for what works, what doesn't, and--more important--how all these elements will work together in the coming years. This is the kind of insight no one but a third party focused on this kind of information can provide. This is where the agency of the future will prove its value.
So next time you get a down minute, pick up the phone and call your agency contacts and ask them, "Now what?" You should get some very interesting answers.