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Brands and direct and digital marketers get candid about the challenges and opportunities
Brands and direct and digital marketers get candid about the challenges and opportunities

Xerox is not alone. Fortune 500 brands across the board are looking to cut through the noise and reach customers wherever they are, making it easy for them to communicate with brands on their own terms. Agencies must be able to take a customer-centric approach and create multichannel experiences that can also evolve based on a consumer's response.

“CMOs are focused more today on the overall customer experience, and in today's multichannel world, that translates to customer engagement and brand interactions that are measured,” Skidmore explains.

This is good news for direct marketers as measurement is a foundation of the discipline. “While branding is constant, the skills and discipline we bring from two decades of customer relationship management across channels, and how we integrate these with branding — through invitations to converse, compelling content and calls-to-action — are enabling brands to have more of a direct relationship with their customers,” Skidmore explains.

Focus on integration

At the core of these marketing programs is a demand for integration. While multichannel integration is nothing new, the challenge hasn't gone away and marketers are still asking their agencies for streamlined platforms that work across channels. “Clients have a

hunger for integration,” says Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman and CEO of OgilvyOne Worldwide. “As the world becomes more complex and fragmented, clients need an agency that can put all the pieces together.”

Borders continue to blur as cutting edge digital agencies are competing against more traditional direct marketing agencies, because both offer in-house tools to help clients execute campaigns. “As marketing integrates, the lines between agencies of record, branding, CRM, digital … increasingly blur on who does what,” Skidmore says. “Consolidation among agency players is both an opportunity and a threat.”

Q&A: Daniel Morel, chairman and CEO, Wunderman

Wunderman chairman and CEO Daniel Morel on challenges agencies are facing and the opportunities ahead.

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Digital is definitely an opportunity for companies that have traditionally focused on database marketing because of their expertise in analytics. However, it is important that these companies innovate in order to prevent getting wiped out by more emerging, leading edge companies.

“Direct marketers have to step up their digital game, and fast,” says David Williams, president and CEO at Merkle. “Digital marketing is more than just “likes” on a Facebook page or the creation of mobile apps. It's about creating an intersection of information, analytics and technology to develop integrated media and channel interactions that maximize customer experience.”

Williams says having a solid understanding of direct marketing will help in the digital world. “Digital marketers often think that they are creating brand new marketing capabilities, but we would argue that direct marketing is the skill, and that digital is just new media through which we deploy it,” he adds.

Digital agencies are expected to be innovative, and brands need these agencies to quickly keep up with the latest in consumer experiences and desires. “Expectations of speed, ease-of-use and usefulness grow with every new innovation that succeeds in allowing users to accomplish their goals even faster,” says Aaron Shapiro, CEO of HUGE. “In direct marketing, specifically, it's not just focusing on service through messaging or branded experience that's necessary, but also ‘frictionlessly' guiding the user to conversion.”

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