Agency A-List: 2 Hot Topics of 2015

Two weeks ago marked an important milestone in my (young) marketing career: my first trade show. DMA 2014 was held in the sunny San Diego, California. Hundreds of data-driven marketing professionals gathered to learn about hot industry-related topics including email marketing, analytics, the importance of using a CRM, and much more. From speakers to educational sessions to browsing the exhibit halls talking to vendors, attendees soaked up the latest news and offerings in the current marketing landscape.

future-technology

Didn’t attend DMA 2014? Lucky for you, I’ve brought back some notes to share with you :)

While there was a lot to be learned, one particular thought leadership session stuck out to me. And if you work at an agency, this one is especially for you.

Agency A-Listers

What do you get when 4 executives from different agencies walk into a bar? Trick question, 4 executives from competing agencies would never walk into a bar with each other.

Okay, KIDDING! (well, kinda).

But what do you get when 4 agency executives walk into a conference room together? Impressive insight, industry predictions for 2015, and (lots of) honest opinions.

Here are two subjects that got these thought leaders fired up: Integrated agencies and the balancing act between Data vs. Creativity.

See You Later, Silo Agencies.

This is a topic that all ad agency executives were in agreement on: the shift to integrated agencies. In today’s marketing world, clients want their message delivered through multiple channels: television, radio, direct mail, social media, email, popular apps, etc.

Silo agencies divide, or specialize, utilizing one channel independently from other channels. Having a specialized team create and launch campaigns in a single channel they are an expert in may seem like the most effective way to distribute and manage assignments from a client. However, the results of the campaign collectively may suffer.

As Zachary Treuhaft (@zacharyt), Chief Digital Officer at Grey, put it, “siloed marketing looks like a brand talking out of multiple sides of their mouth.” If one agency is working on a brand’s social media advertising and another is working on print or television advertising, how can the brand guarantee that their messaging is consistent across all channels?

Clients want their brand to have a singular point of view that is pushed through multiple channels consistently. Agencies who offer integrated marketing, as opposed to specialized, or siloed marketing, can produce campaigns across multiple channels that look and sound like one unified voice.

Clients would now only have to hire one agency to produce all of their multi-channel advertisements for them. While that sounds like rainbows and butterflies for the clients…integrated marketing is challenging for agencies. It requires staffing employees who are easily adaptable, meeting tight deadlines with more projects, and being knowledgable about best practices for advertising on all channels. Being a jack of all trades is tough!

But, what the client wants, the client usually gets. And according to all 4 of these agency experts (yes, all 4 unequivocally agreed on this), clients want integrated marketing from the agencies they hire.

The Human Heart vs. Data: Which one Prevails?

Naturally, there had to be at least one topic of disagreement amongst the panelists. Chris Pitre (@chrispitre), Director of Strategic Planning at Astadia, asked, “With competition between agencies being inevitable, how do you stay on top?” In response, the classic logic vs. emotion battle manifested itself into the data vs. creativity balance within the agency industry.

logic vs emotionManaging campaigns on multiple channels is difficult, so data is analyzed to try and make sense of all your marketing efforts. Allyson Hugley (@HugleyA), EVP of Measurement, Analytics & Insights at Weber Shandwick, believes that data holds truth, and is the universal language to understanding how effective your advertising is.

In a world where advertising campaigns are reaching across multiple channels, to varying demographics, with numerous different needs and expectations, basing your campaigns simply on intuition and creativity isn’t going to cut it. According to Allyson, “agencies that are able to articulate, demonstrate, and have the results to prove it are going to be the winners.”

Sean Corcoran (@SeanCor), Director of Digital Media & Social Influence at Mullen, countered the idea of data-centered advertising with one line: “At the end of the day, we are humans creating engaging content for other humans.” While data is useful in understanding your audience and analyzing metrics of your campaign, it can’t tell the whole story of how your audience is going to react to your messaging.

The human heart is emotional and unpredictable at times; how can data really account for that? In a time where consumers are inundated with advertisements at all hours of the day, agencies that produce creative, innovative content that cuts through the noise of ad-overload will stay on top.

What Does All of This Mean?

I don’t think Allyson means that agencies should become data-crunchers that center their campaigns solely on what psychology research and previous case studies have shown to be successful in the past. And I also don’t think Sean believes agencies should throw their analytics out the window and re-invent the wheel of advertising in every campaign.

But I do think their stances symbolize the tough balancing act that agencies are faced with. Should your agency focus more on what the numbers tell you your audience will like? Or should your agency follow its heart and deliver an advertising campaign that you believe other people will find innovative and engaging?

The answer is that it’s probably good to mix between the two. Data certainly gives you valuable insight in regards to your audience and what has worked for others in the past – so ignoring this information completely would certainly be a disadvantage. But the creative mind of an agency strategist is unquantifiable. Creating experimental, fresh campaigns is definitely more risky, but it can also break the mold of what a “successful” campaign looks like. And that’s pretty exciting.

I’ll leave you with what Zachary Treuhaft left me. As 2015 comes around and the agency industry is changing at the speed of technology, his advice was this: “Be brave. As our world gets more complicated, our ability to know with certainty diminishes.”

What are your predictions about the agency industry in 2015? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Authored by: Camille Marti

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