With the evolution of digital and social over the past years, it comes as no surprise that in the face of change we are always questioning what comes next. Brands and agencies alike have a need to remain one step ahead of the game, the first on trend and the most relevant in our consumers’ eyes.
This need, coupled with the abundance of rich data that we now have at our fingertips, has created a quick-fix mentality and pop-up specialist functions.
The speed at which the purpose of content, social and digital planning is changing has resulted in an assembly of verticals, specialisms and skill sets within the agency taskforce. Today, if you take a walk in any agency, you’ll find experts in search, social media, video, influencer marketing, creative development, web analytics… and the list continues.
The plethora of typecast experts can not only be confusing for brand managers, but it could potentially derail planning direction and campaign development. Agencies and teams are all fighting for the same piece of the pie – and so instead of building data-led strategies, they could be looking to plan in the direction that best suits their own knowledge and agenda.
To tell more cohesive brand stories there has been a definitive shift towards integrated planning across media agencies. This is evident with planning originating from one dedicated source, rather than a series of Excel sheets for offline, TV, digital and social. But is this customised enough?
Agencies and clients alike have been so focused on ensuring we are on point when it comes to what’s trending that we are creating dislocated campaigns. This disruptive approach creates problems throughout: the volume of creatives being produced, the lack of synergy in channel weightings, the melee of metrics being reported on, and even the concern that the success of one element of the campaign ends up compromising another.
What is the use of updating your organic search terms if they aren’t going to be leveraged in your social media calendar and overall content? How can you manage an influencer strategy on Instagram if you don’t have visibility on the brand’s posting plan?
Instead of looking outside, into a world that we have no control over, trying to guess what the next Zuckerberg is going to bring into our realm, I suggest we focus elsewhere.
The future of marketing is now, it is here, and we all need to jump on board. Let’s start by legitimately looking at content as king, platforms as vehicles to power and distribute the big idea and consumer data as the seed to our plans. Rather than coming up with ideas solely based on already owned platforms, we should build amazing plans and then decide how content is to be distributed to best suit our audience and message – almost regardless of where the brand has presence.
The silos of expertise are hindering the way we look at planning. We need to ensure that the audience is the fulcrum of our campaigns and this is anchored by data and the purchase journey above all.
I believe this orchestra needs a conductor – one person who is consumer driven rather than agency-focused, holding the baton, who knows and understands all the fundamentals and can then guide the experts internally. Their aim is to create a symphonic story, rooted in data, harmonising all the elements that we can play with as marketeers to reach our audience flawlessly. Clients should not have to be dealing with five different experts sitting under the same roof. It is imperative that all planners and content developers are able to manage the full portfolio of a client’s needs.
A perfect example of this line of thinking would be your wealth manager at a bank. You have one point of contact, and they deal internally with all departments within the bank. It isn’t up to the client to run from one to the other. Couldn’t this be a model we learn from?
No longer are communication plans just about one thing, and no longer are segmented teams going to work. Agencies have to become all-inclusive and all-understanding; collaboration needs to be ingrained in planning and not a secondary thought. Ultimately, until we look inwards at how we are servicing clients and customers alike, the future of marketing will fall into a disjointed and P&L-first approach.
With that said, it is important to note that clients need to know that their brands are handled by field experts, which is why it is vital that while we are empowering client leads we do not dilute the individual expertise within the agency framework. The future lies in the balance between encouraging specialisms and entrepreneurial spirit whilst maintaining agile client leads.
The barriers and steps to making these changes are not straightforward. It will need time, commitment and bold decisions to be taken by agencies across the region. We are already taking steps in the right direction, both globally and locally, with tighter knit teams and a stronger focus on an audience-first approach.
Agencies with the most fluidity and bravery to think audience first are the ones that will win in the long run.