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Digital agencies under review

Advertisers face an ever-growing list of media buying options as the proliferation of digital permeates the industry. Given the sheer magnitude of choices, over-extended marketers often must turn to their agencies to determine the best fit to meet their goals. Far too often, however, agencies fall short here due to their attempt to be all things to all clients, a tendency that provides little benefit to either party.

As marketers become smarter and more sophisticated in their needs, agencies, technology providers and publishers are being forced to define and focus on their core competencies and work together to build relationships that offer the best possible value to the client.

In truth, the most valuable agency is the one that can corral a multitude of services – possibly from outside and internal sources – into a cohesive and integrated advertising strategy. They should be focused entirely on bringing in new business for the marketer, which is guided by the overall business objectives. At its best, it can be a wonderfully symbiotic relationship: the client knows his business better than the agency, and the agency knows digital better than its client, a situation that delivers mutual benefit.

Marketers will continue to take a hard look at their agency relationships to determine whether their needs are being fully met—or if any opportunities are being overlooked. They will ask themselves, “Does my agency still know more about the digital space than I do?”

Agencies need to understand that they’re being held accountable to an entirely new set of standards, where weeding through the plethora of options to determine the right opportunity can be just as valuable as delivering ROI. Clients need to know they can trust their agencies to carefully evaluate new properties, new vendors and new technologies with their best interest in mind and offer expert recommendations, rather than merely serve as the executioner. This is where the agency can establish its true value. It’s not about the buy—it’s the strategic partnership that matters most.

In order to become such a valuable partner, agencies must work to enhance capacity—even if it means going out-of-house to build a trusted network of vendors. Transparency in these relationships is a must. By bringing everyone to the table, clients can see that the agency is operating with their best interest in mind, rather than focusing efforts on obscuring the relationships at the risk of revealing ineptitude.

While many in the industry continue cling to the notion that transparency in these relationships can be risky, the fact is that marketers understand the overwhelming nature of the digital business. It’s next to impossible to maintain in-house expertise in every specialization. Instead, agencies must specialize in having a finger on the pulse of all things digital, knowing what’s out there and where to turn for the most cutting-edge, effective solutions. This is how the agency will establish its value to clients and build a level of trust that will ensure ongoing and mutual satisfaction from the client relationship.

Lori Goldberg is SVP of client services at Traffiq’s IQ Professional Services, a digital media workflow platform for agencies and advertisers.

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