As the advertising industry evolves, and brands look to have more ownership of their data and measurement, big media holding companies have struggled — Omnicom, IPG and WPP included. The roles of agencies, brands, tech platforms continue to shift and consultants have edged in on the agency piece. “Tech consultants are the new mad men,” declared the Wall Street Journal in November 2018.
But there’s certainly a middle ground here. Most, if not all, in-house teams simply won’t be able to be the best at everything. The speed and rate of industry change are just too high, and top talent is too difficult to retain. The result — in 2019, we’ll see more brands increasingly turn to digital advertising agencies and tech consultants nimble enough to act as an extension to their internal teams.
As Electronic Arts’ Global Head of Media Belinda Smith asserts, “Brands taking marketing, media or content in-house does not mean the apocalypse for agencies — quite the contrary.”
Advent of transparency
We believe that the conversation of in-housing is actually about transparency and ownership of data. Marketers are finding data to be more accessible, but data without a strategy is useless. In 2018, consumer privacy, fake news and brand safety were areas of concern for most CMOS. By owning data and data sources, brands can not only better understand the customer journey but can also establish more trust. Good first-party data, that is collected correctly, is the only way to capture clear insights.
Understanding customer interactions across all touchpoints is the number one challenge for today’s marketers. As WPP CEO Mark Read put it, “It’s clear that scale has moved from buying power to the power of intelligence, and the heart of that is data.” Clean data provides insights into the kind of content that works, where and to what audiences are responding but often requires a data specialist to make sense of the data. With data teams working with creatives, brands and agencies can create compelling and engaging content with better results and can deliver personalized experiences to specific audiences.
New model, new day
We agree that the agency model is transforming, but at the end of the day, data can’t replace creative. The truth is, brands need to take steps towards owning their data while not losing sight of the Yin and Yang that make up marketing teams, meaning the creative and data strategists. Yes, marketers are taking a progressive leap into the transformation that is happening in digital – but that doesn’t mean all or nothing. Data supplies the WHAT and creative delivers the WHY. But as more brands announce in-house moves, agencies need to not feel threatened but know that it is time to evolve their service offerings and help marketers to streamline data from a variety of sources. If data is not informing a buy, marketers are not data-driven, they are data-responsive. Therefore, the better teams can collaborate and leverage the “art and science” disciplines, the more effective they will be.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to visibility. Bringing data in-house just means brands own the keys to their platforms — but working with agencies and tech platform partners are still critical to delivering value and expertise towards true business outcomes. With data at the center, decision making will become easier, campaigns more predictive and return on investment will no longer be in question.
Time will only tell how these market shifts will impact the way all parties work together, but one thing is for sure: the days of data obfuscation are over. It’s time to open the possibilities on the entire marketing stack and give tech providers, agencies and brands the visibility and transparency for both media buying and measurement so that everyone is working from the same view. Those who do — internal marketers, agents, consultants — will reap the rewards.