Today's Marketing Agency Must Be a Driving Force

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15 agency executives examine the evolving role of the marketing agency to clients and the industry at large.

Sabrina List, Senior VP, BLASTmedia

According to Experian's 2014 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report, 80% of marketers plan to run cross-channel marketing campaigns in 2014; more than half plan to integrate their marketing campaigns across four or more different channels. As cross-channel marketing increases and traditional silos in marketing are broken down, collaboration among marketing agencies will sharply increase.

Gone are the days when your PR agency worked with blinders on and no insight into campaigns being created and executed by your social media team, creative agency, or ad agency. For marketers to best communicate with their audience and make the maximum impact, campaigns must integrate multiple channels (and agencies) across the marketing spectrum. Thanks to this shift, agencies have the unique opportunity to collaborate with one another to ensure that the client's messages are reaching audiences appropriately.

Marketers sitting in the client seat should expect agencies to initiate collaboration with one another. If they aren't, it's up to the agencies to make it happen.

Jonah Bloom, Chief Strategy Officer, kbs+

The marketing agency today is moving simultaneously upstream and downstream. With the increasing importance of owned media channels—websites, mobile apps, eCRM, social channels—agencies are operating at the point of interface with the consumer, making critical, tactical decisions to ensure a sales conversion or sales lead generation.

Simultaneously, agencies are amassing and, hopefully, analyzing critical data on consumer behavior and sentiment. When the potential of that data is maximized, it can inform brand strategy, new product development, and other tactics because it reveals rich, new opportunities to give consumers something better than they're currently getting, or even to invent something that doesn't exist.

As a result, client-side marketers should be looking at their agencies to solve business problems, not just create communications. Communications can be the solution to business challenges, but it's not the only solution. Often the answer is to change a product, service, or business practice in some meaningful way and then tell a story about that, rather than to simply showcase existing offerings in a different light.

Pete Carter, Principal and SVP, Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey

Most agencies began using traditional media like direct mail and print, but social media and mobile are evolving quickly and must be reflected on every marketing agenda. Smart agencies are adapting to the times and offering clients a multichannel approach.

In this environment, staffing is a challenge. Veterans who grew up with direct mail must learn the ins and outs of new media and how to coordinate their use with old-school techniques. Younger practitioners, who tend to focus on social media and Web marketing, must understand that direct mail, telemarketing, print, and DRTV are invaluable in driving online giving and sales.

Clients should expect agencies to develop best-of-breed creative, where presentations articulate an overall concept and illustrate its implementation in an omnichannel environment. Conversely, clients must come to the table prepared to discuss and implement cross-channel recommendations and have all the right decision-makers present to approve the approach for their channel.

Cindy Randazzo, VP and Chief Strategy Officer, SourceLink

In recent years we've seen clients place greater emphasis on customer intelligence services (e.g., modeling, analytics, segmentation) to drive higher consumer engagement.

Today the quest for intelligence-driven marketing has escalated to strategy and insight consulting, including mapping the customer journey and brand engagement strategies.

Further, the convergence of the marketing and IT departments has changed the paradigm of client organizations. Thus, the agency role in some cases has expanded from designing and maintaining data warehouses to developing comprehensive marketing ecosystems that enable a single version of the truth composed of traditional and Big Data.

Additionally, clients are seeking coordinated, branded messaging with real-time offers and access to customer data in a cross-functional environment.

Clients have come to expect coalescence of technology, customer intelligence, and strategy to support intelligence-driven omnichannel approaches—from decisioning to analytics and business-level marketing accountability. Clients today anticipate improved business impact and more precisely demonstrated marketing ROI.

Michael Hemsey, President, Kobie Marketing

As CMOs have been tasked to “do more with less” in recent years, they're looking to agencies (e.g., branding, email, advertising) for more integrated service offerings. In the loyalty industry, CMOs expect their agency to provide a highly flexible and scalable loyalty platform with CRM and advanced analytics capabilities—services that were previously siloed.

CMOs also look to their agency for insights that can guide other marketing initiatives and strategies. This coalescing of services means CMOs can do more to enhance the overall customer experience through an omnichannel lens.

As a result, the services that agencies offer must integrate seamlessly with operations; taking into account employee channels like customer service. Additionally, CMOs should expect their agency to have the ability to interface with existing technology infrastructures, to have a fluid integration that allows marketing leaders to maintain their vital customer and employee data sources.

Joe Kuchta, Co-owner and CEO, GA Communication Group

Today's top agency talent is looking for a less bureaucratic work environment that allows them to focus on the delivery of great work that builds their clients' business, not navigating internal politics and structure.

Clients are most distressed by the inability of disparate agency offices to work together, and they're looking for agencies that provide a larger set of services.

Independent-agency networks provide both talent and clients—who in the past were often limited to choosing between rivaling large holding companies—with an opportunity to find the creative and strategic strength they're looking for.

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