Are Clients Becoming More Attracted to Digital Agency People?

By Thought Leaders Archives
Cover image for  article: Are Clients Becoming More Attracted to Digital Agency People?

Bob Liodice, the President and CEO of the ANA, once said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that client CMOs are not sufficiently in charge of the activities of their agencies.  He wasn't chastising them but merely sending a word of caution that if clients expect more from their agencies, particularly in areas of transparency, they have to be more intimately involved in what they do and how they do it.

Many surveys continue to point out that clients are not fully aware of details concerning the fast-paced, ever-changing world of digital marketing and how digital media are contributing to the success of brand building (or not, asP&G indicated by their withdrawal of millions of ad dollars from digital spending).  While advertisers know the digital ecosystem is transformative and their business must adapt to new methods and measurements to take advantage of these marketing opportunities they often don't know the best way to do it.

Needless to say, the digital advertising world is more complex than anyone imagined.  The huge number of advertising sites, the variety of platforms, the many metrics and different measurement systems, the attribution of results from integrated campaigns, the ability to develop new consumer insights and strategic implementation, the way to handle Internet fraud, bots and privacy issues, the undesirable content sometimes surrounding certain ad placements, the emergence of additional technologies; these are just a few of the challenges facing marketers.

The CMO may not be expected to be expert in all advertising and media disciplines. That's why they hire agencies that have built and invested in the resources and people necessary to guide clients and handle the analytics and execution of these changing dynamics.  But with the deteriorating partnership between agencies and advertisers and the conflicting financial implications and transparency issues of the relationship, some clients are bringing agency people with certain expertise into their own organization.

Recently, it was reported that AT&T hired the CEO of GroupM North America to handle advertising automation and analytics reporting directly to the AT&T Chairman and CEO.  This, of course, is a unique situation because AT&T owns DirecTV and has a pending acquisition of Time Warner so their tech savvy business, including addressable TV advertising, is a focal point.  But as the online commercial enterprise of most businesses is accelerating there will, no doubt, be more Internet-intelligent people joining client companies.  These individuals will not necessarily replace the agency, but they could come from the agency side or ad tech side and will take on certain functions as well as act as digital guidance counselors to the CMO.  They will also liaison with the agency and digital inventory suppliers and operate with unique knowledge of all things digital.  

Is this a trend?  Not yet.  But agencies have to step up to the plate and form closer ties all the way up the ladder on the client side.  They have to literally not only perform typical agency duties but provide a comprehensive digital education to key people at the client.  Advertisers are hungry for digital knowledge and agencies have the staff to do this -- not only to embrace the positive aspects of improving their client's business, but to avoid the digital pitfalls as well.

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