The Digital Signal in the Noise

By Thought Leaders Archives
Cover image for  article: The Digital Signal in the Noise

According to statistics that the 4As collects there were 633 reported and recorded agency reviews in 2015.  The number of reviews is pretty stable from year to year varying by only 5-10%.  However, from the late spring of 2015 to the late fall, there was a rash of very high-profile media agency reviews.  At one point the press trumpeted that as much as $30 billion was a stake.  But, by year’s end, the number of media agency reviews was about the same as 2014.  This created a lot of noise, but in the end very little signal.

The 4As noted, however, that the number of project reviews has significantly increased, as has the number of digitally related reviews.  Not a lot of noise here, but that’s where the signal is.

From the mid-Eighties to the late Nineties search consultants were in great demand, often exceeding involvement half the time a review was held. Now, a consultant is retained just under one out of every four times.  This is in part because consultants are not hired for the ever-increasing number of project reviews, but even more to the point, clients are running their own reviews to a larger extent.  That is, except for digitally related reviews.

Originally consultants were hired because clients either didn’t have enough experience or time to run reviews themselves. Most were not adept at the process of running reviews and knew very little about compensation norms and practices.  As time passed, clients caught up and  procurement departments evolved and consultants were not needed as much.  That is until now.

Digital reviews pose a major problem for many marketers because they aren’t as familiar with the digital landscape or language as they are with creative or media. And, of course, they don’t have the time to devote to either, so a search consultant becomes more important again.

Last year there were 194 reviews with a prominent digital component.  That’s nearly four new digital reviews every week of the year.  Next to creative reviews, digital searches were the most frequent, signaling that marketers’ needs are growing in this area as exponentially as the medium itself in all its forms.

The keys to running a successful digital agency review are as follows.

  • Advertisers must clearly understand what they want to accomplish in a complex digital environment and be able to communicate the expected outcomes.
  • They must know the field of digital agencies and capabilities that can not only meet but  exceed their expectations, with a history of  demonstrated success.
  • The chosen agency should have the resources, knowledge and digital technology to push through the onslaught of shiny objects and focus on what will yield the greatest return on investment for the client.
  • The digital agency should have the tools to analyze and measure success and find ways to strategically use big data to provide greater insights.
  • Finally, the search process requires people leading the way that understand the digital ecosystem and have the digital expertise as well as knowledge of all forms of media to guide marketers to a successful agency selection. 

Digital media has many channels and platforms that continue to provide unique opportunities for advertisers.

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