Disenchanted with the agency model, a new breed of marketers in Asia has created new structures internally and increased their expectations of performance marketing.
These days it is common to have media agencies put together media plans separately from creative agencies developing campaigns. Often, media plans would have been determined months ahead and see minor tweaks to accommodate creative ideation. I’ve always called this the great divide.
If you add PR agencies into the mix, we then have the great rift across which inter-agency communications get misunderstood and misinterpreted. There are instances when these separate entities come together to deliver a joint plan that complements each other but this happens very rarely.
Recent years see another divide where paid placements on social and digital are handled by one team and “organic” content for communities and the web managed by another. With a grab for digital responsibilities happening these content teams could be sitting in media or creative of PR agencies.
Division upon division and what results is complexity in bringing together a cohesive approach to any campaign or online activity and an inability to track efficiencies accurately.
These are situations I find regularly recurring when working on projects and I wonder how many you find familiar?
[ ] The media budget is unable to support the intended KPI as the KPI was not defined when we were doing budgeting.
[ ] The media plan does not have enough budget allocation to support AB testing so we will have to proceed with just one message.
[ ] The creative agency tested 42 keywords but the findings were inconclusive as the media plan did not have enough reach.
[ ] The creative budget allows only one set of creative to be produced as they didn’t understand media fatigue.
[ ] There isn’t enough creative budget to produce messages for the range of segments and their varied interests so one ad version will be resized.
[ ] The content team cannot schedule this campaign content as the content calendar is full.
[ ] The content team cannot create content to support the campaign as the content budget has already been utilized.
Faced with this usual set of roadblocks the campaigns that get implemented in Asia are often not very different between brands as a cookie-cutter approach is adopted to get work quickly out the door.
Media agencies tell creative agencies to give them ads in a particular format. Creative agencies give media agencies assets resized from a master creative to fit required specifications. Content teams create and push out content following a calendar sometimes independent of product marketing.
And some brand marketers continue to lament the lack of ROI in digital, the inability to drive value from communities and question the validity of content efforts.
Now lets meet a new breed of marketers who are frustrated with this model and who have started seeking out solution providers that are willing to help them get things done.
Plagued by roadblocks from old-school stakeholders that are not agile enough, these brand marketers are starting to over-rule them, by-pass them, or just simply leave them out of the equation.
This is a conversation I’m starting to hear more and more frequently.
“This is my budget and these are some assumptions.
Can you help me verify them?
Do you think this can be achieved with a CPA of under US$150?
And please don’t involve my ____ agency.”
While I love these new challenges and jump ecstatically at the freedom to: for example, propose a keyword testing phase to see which words and phrases resonate with the intended audience segments, then run a campaign with 18 creative versions targeting 32 audience, I feel like I'm unwisely excluding key stakeholders that are integral in steering brand communications.
As much as we're experts in our area, we do like to call upon in-depth understandings that certain communication specialists have.
But then we all need to shift with the changing times and these times see this new breed of marketers not just changing the way they work with agencies but the way they set up teams.
Disenchanted with the agency model, they have created new structures internally, increased their expectations of performance marketing, push the envelop on accountability and are now seeking out companies and solutions that help deliver to their new expectations.
I thought this trend to be unique to e-commerce players but to my surprise I'm seeing more and more direct clients of similar purpose, to get things done minus the unneeded obstacle course.
Somewhere along the way as the marketing paradigm shifted, those that held sway over budgets kept their eyes so much on the budgets that they forgot the purpose of those budgets.
Because we all have valuable pockets of insights and specialist knowledge that together make a greater impact, we all need to play well together.
Off executing alone, we may be able to show successes but these pale when compared to a planning table surrounded by agencies and individuals sharing the same goal - how can we do things better for our clients’ brands and their customers?
These new brand marketers and their process innovations are showing successes and if bridges do not get built quickly we may be remembering how things used to be in the agency days.
So I hope this goes a little way in getting more people offering solutions rather than roadblocks, and more people reaching beyond their area of specialty to engage with other specialists across all disciplines and agencies.
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Jermyn Toh started cobbling together websites in the mid 90s and went on to work with brands like adidas, Apple, Daimler, DHL, Diageo, GSK, HTC, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Visa in various digital planning and marketing consultancy roles. He is currently director of Experian’s Digital Innovation Group and focuses on market development for Alchemy Social, digital strategy, and product innovation. He can be found on Twitter @jermyntoh.
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