Model Of An Engagement-Based Agency?

I have made no secret of my love affair with engagements as a baseline metric for digital media. Over the past two months I have written that "I'm Sold On Engagement"  and that I firmly believe "Engagements Will Be The Internet's 30-Second Spot." In both columns I argue that in order for marketers and agencies to achieve both scale and a method of marketing that is truly native to the social media landscape, they should be focused on engagements. Engagements provide what marketers are looking for at the most basic level: that people are actively paying attention and that they are ready, willing and able to receive a marketing message.  Even better, engagement means that marketers are leveraging not only sight, sound and motion, but the all-important fourth element unique to new media, interaction.



So when Big Fuel  gave me a sneak peek a few weeks ago of its aim to provide comprehensive solutions to marketers as "The Consumer Engagement Agency," you can imagine I was an enthusiastic audience. This video lays out how Big Fuel looks at the need for a new type of agency at the table with marketers, hence the title "A New Seat."  (Disclosure: SocialVibe is working with Big Fuel for a shared client).  So if a new agency seat, or at least a new agency role, makes sense, the obvious next question is: what does this mean for traditional agencies?

You'll notice a common thread in discussions over the past couple of months, both in my columns and in many other industry pieces. We have even begun to explore the cross-section of "traditional" agency skills required to manage clients' social media efforts in "The Future Agency Of Record Will Be Social." So does the creation of an agency model based around the metric most appropriate and most impactful for clients make sense? It did when reach and frequency were the most important and effective metrics, and agency models were developed around buying more media in bulk. All this begs the question, what are the proper skill sets to apply when engagements are what an agency is looking to deliver? And perhaps more important, what are the areas of "shared responsibility" between an agency and a client?

This is only the beginning of the discussion, but it points in one direction: a new agency model. What is even more exciting, we are starting to see that model take shape. I have just started reading a book by Bridge Worldwide's Bob Gilbreath. (The book isn't out yet, but I promise to give more details and a full report once I have finished, and so far I am loving it.) In the book Gilbreath lays out the need for a marketing framework that provides value to people first.

Bridge Worldwide is innovating the agency model, and it is part of the largest holding company in the world, while independent agencies like Big Fuel, 360i  and Deep Focus  are building engagements and social into their DNA. I don't know about you, but to me there seems to be some patterns forming in the madness on the next evolution of marketing, even if there are still questions on how to best achieve it. What do you think? Find me on Twitter at @joemarchese ( and keep the conversation going.

5 comments about "Model Of An Engagement-Based Agency?".
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  1. Lisbeth Kramer from Identities, April 28, 2009 at 12:13 p.m.


    I love what you have 2 say here and been following your "engagement" rant.......and I love that BIGFUEL has become inventive in getting this message across(very cool vid)......but I think there is more than one NEW SEAT needed at the table. I also am inquiring so as not to assume, as you present this engagement conversation, as one who has sat sufficiently around many sides of the table, created and bought the communicating strategies and vehicles......I see engagement not exclusively through social media, but indeed a 360 immersion...why should not the content on TV, your print, your site, be just as engaging? In a world of potential "TV EVERYWHERE" let alone how everyone, 8-80 lives everywhere these days (and I don't mean geography) is not only where the touch point is made by the context within which it is made that connects........that grabs us......

    So for me, another NEW SEAT at the table on either side or both (perhaps in the domain of planning on agency side, mktng dir, CMO whomever on other), has to be someone who truly gets product creation from the roots, the distribution channels and what is relevant there to , how it, desire for it, gets connected to the consumer.....and what differentials exist in local markets vs national or global... WITHOUT QUESTION, there should be a marked engagement factor and how you measure that????but INSIGHTS about buying and selling product, the behavior of the TARGETED consumer and that threaded into ALL the communication/marketing process and points of contact....

    I guess I just don't feel that engagement is limited to the social world or digital innovations.....

  2. Bob Gilbreath from Ahalogy, April 28, 2009 at 3:50 p.m.

    Thanks for the kinds words on the book already, Joe. Wait until you get to the chapter that features "Engagement Based Media Planning." Can't wait for your full feedback.


  3. Ted Rubin from The Rubin Organization / Return on Relationship, April 28, 2009 at 11:46 p.m.

    I have been preaching engagement at e.l.f. for some time and have been given to tools to effect engaglement little by little. Do not think this is about the agency, but about the marketing perspective in house. Thanks for the back-up... needed to keep the pressure on and the assets coming.

  4. Martin Russ from Freelance Technical Author, April 29, 2009 at 10:10 a.m.

    Joe's proposal of 'standard units, fullest use, productive time spent, overall return, and total context' is exactly the way that we think about what we deliver, and we warmly welcome Big Fuel's initiative to lead the way in enabling the creation of meaningful, memorable and relevant content. Our 'personalized video' technology provides exactly the kind of deep and compelling engagement opportunities that make the 'whole life model' approach behind 'consumer engagement' truly powerful for connecting with consumers. Agencies need to put their audience first, by making engagement a top priority in the 'next evolution of marketing'.
    Twitter: @realtimecontent

  5. David Beckert from Martin Group Marketing, May 5, 2009 at 11:28 a.m.

    Engagement’s great when we have a category that people like to be engaged to – but most of the stuff we use on a daily basis (read most package goods), we have no interest in even dating, let alone being engaged. I really don’t want a relationship with my laundry detergent, toothpaste or even my morning cup of coffee. TV with soporophic inducing coma was great for these products, since it promised category nirvana (clean cothes, sparkling teeth and a morning jolt) without asking for a thing in return. It nudged that reptilian, I simply want, part of my brain just enough to think that I was actually getting what I really wanted. The Internet asks me to think about these things, rationally consider them and decide which is best for me – in short, get engaged.
    Decisions, decisions, decisions . . . I want my TV back.

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