Power Essay by Wavemaker’s Mariam Raafat: Agency of the Future

Mariam Raafat, Managing Director, Wavemaker Egypt

As media evolved in modern culture to become more and more complex, there has been a dire need for the formation of independent media entities away from the communication agencies. Over the years, those entities shaped up to hold the tools, knowledge and research that enable clients to win with products, boost their sales and drive productivity, making them an integral part of any client business.

However, what has been happening recently is that most of the big conglomerates that held media expertise across the years have started to weaken and get diluted, driving the decision for clients to move part of their business in-house, thinking that this new model will increase their efficiency and give them better control over the execution of their communication strategy, especially in this complex online landscape.

This trend has been increasing globally but can clearly be seen in most of the developing countries, like Egypt for example. Among the main reasons for this increased trend is that media entities are limiting their offering to competitive trading schemes, diverting their attention from what can drive business opportunities for their clients. Also, most of the big groups are creating a lot of sub-speciality agencies, apart from the main agencies, whereby they are trying to refine their service to include programmatic services, content creation, social moderation, digital activations, etc. This in turn is becoming extremely complicated for clients to comprehend and adopt.

Another reason for this trend is the lack of unique creative offering with the spread of social media and its complexity, which enables platforms like YouTube and Facebook to offer many creative solution and tools for clients, something that was done exclusively by speciality agencies in the past.

It has become evident that media agencies have to regain their position in today’s world to avoid the risk of in-housing and their roles becoming redundant. Below are some of the pillars that agencies might need to consider to re-start their journeys and regain their glamour.

1. Speak the client language
It is no longer about the media consumption of a specific target, or the need to block your competitor from a certain opportunity. It is about finding the growth opportunities in your client business and how you can use media to tackle these opportunities and win in the marketplace. You need to be part
of your client’s team and speak their jargon: ‘growth drivers’, ‘boosting sales’, ‘conversion rates’, consumer passion points’, ‘strategic problem solving’. This will enable the agency to be fully integrated within the client teams.

2. Be agile and open to take risks
The most creative media hits are the ones that are created in real-time because they capture an untapped opportunity that no one has managed to step into. Clients cannot tolerate strategies and plans that consume long lead times to be able to counter attack competition or win shares in certain categories. Social media has exemplified the benefits of real-time marketing and the never-ending engagement resulting from it. Also, agencies need to be open to take things to the next level while always asking “What if?”, “Can I do it this way or the other?” and “Why not?” because the challenging attitude enables one to explore new, untapped opportunities while opening new channels of success.

3. Enrich sub-specialties within the agency
Agencies have to go back to being clients’ one-stop shop, especially with the increased expansion and evolution of digital media. Agencies need to keep on refining their offering with integrated solutions, instead of offering a dozen sister agencies with various offerings to whom they then lose their clients. Everything should reside in one agency and talent should be recruited to cater for the client of the modern world. From consumer targets identification to precision marketing, whether it is a TV sponsorship or a social influencer digital activation, the journey should be owned and executed in one entity.

4. Be a collaborator with a curious mind
Agencies should start to realise that the calibre of clients has evolved altogether, and that expertise lies at both ends of the relationship. Aiming at a healthy business cooperation, agencies should show a lot of collaboration with their clients instead of just dictating pre-determined solutions that clients will never relate to. In doing so, agencies need always to have a curious mind, and keep on challenging the status quo to upgrade their creative solutions in a way that resonates with their clients.

5. Better use of data
Marketers sit on a goldmine of data and the agency should be well integrated in this very important part of the business. Understanding our consumers, their thought process during the purchase journey and what drives them to buy and use products is an integral part of any flourishing business. When agencies are not well exposed to data, or lack the knowledge to properly use it, that is most definitely a missed opportunity for driving growth opportunities for their clients.