Siloed: Clients Lag Agencies In Integrated Opportunities

breaking chainSearch consultants who handle media reviews indicated Tuesday that while agencies have made strides to integrate their traditional and digital capabilities, clients remain behind and may not be able to take advantage of their progress.

Ken Robinson, a principal at Ark Advisors, said clients' in-house operations remain siloed -- perhaps leaving them to fully "manage relationships" that can yield integrated marketing opportunities.

"Definitely, the clients aren't integrated," said Stephen Boehler, the founder of the Mercer Island Group. "It's further along on the agency side."

Advertisers receive ideas about holistic campaigns using multiple platforms from their agencies -- but they may approve them slowly, since multiple divisions may need to be involved in decision-making.

"We really believe that the advertiser has to take the lead," said Jane Twyon, president, Worldwide Media Directors.

The consultants spoke through the prism of what clients are searching for in agencies, notably during the economic downturn. They appeared before a gathering of the Collaborative Alliance, a quarterly forum about interactive televisual propositions (including TV, broadband, wireless and out-of-home) run by executives at agency MPG.

As for whether clients are eager to experiment with burgeoning opportunities in the interactive and addressable advertising space, Boehler said that sheer budget size can play a role. "It varies a lot by the scale of the client and the environment they're working in," he said. He noted that larger clients can apportion dollars to the emerging arenas, while others don't have the resources.

"Mid-sized clients can't afford to be at the leading edge, as it were," he added.

Twyon said "it is a lot of the Wild West," and indicated that clients may want to determine what has been effective before moving aggressively.

Still, Robinson said although many clients can't afford campaigns in the addressable/interactive arenas now, they are "looking to be educated and led" by their agencies if opportunities arise that fit their economic and other profiles. Twyon agreed, saying that clients "look to their agencies to help them decide what opportunities to get involved in," but at a low cost and at a reasonable compensation level. Also, consultants said clients are seeking more evidence from agencies that their campaigns and work are producing ROI.

"Clients are holding their agencies to a higher standard of accountability," Robinson said, adding that clients are under pressure within their companies from the CEO on down to demonstrate that marketing investments are moving product.

Twyon said that during the search process, clients are interested in what kinds of research capabilities agencies have.

To be sure, agencies have extensive data to show marketing effectiveness. But she said that some clients fear it can be too esoteric.

With financial strictures bearing down on them, they are seeking to determine how an agency can "use all this wonderful data" to "build my business" -- and do so within their compensation structure.

"The great challenge is finding a way to link those metrics with the core business issues that clients have," Boehler said.

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