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How data proliferation is changing agency relationships

Posted by Chloe Della Costa on May 5th, 2014 at 12:44 pm

There's no denying that the amount of data now available to marketers is already changing the agency model, industry relationships, and advertising as a whole. But is the volume of data ultimately helping or hurting us? That depends on the choices we make, big and small, as the landscape continues to shift. Jason Burnham, partner, social engineer, Burnham Marketing, moderated a panel discussion at the iMedia Agency Summit in Austin, Texas, on the subject of the evolving landscape for brands, agencies, publishers, and partners alike. Burnham spoke with Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction, Kristi Karens, director of media and agency partnerships, Mondelez International, Shenan Reed, president of digital, MEC, and Nicki Purcell, digital publisher at Dallas Morning News.

With so many players now in the space, the agency model has already radically changed with digital technology. Publishers, media partners, tech providers, analytics partners, in-house teams, specialized agencies, and more are competing for attention, and it's hard to know exactly how to collaborate effectively. And the data explosion has made it even more difficult.

Reed claimed that while we definitely have the volume of data, we are still struggling to determine how much of it is real, relevant, and actionable. "So how we can avoid sacrificing creative integrity?" Burnham asked. Reed explained that we simply "need more of it" (creative), and Kleinberg went on to highlight that while data-driven work is valuable, there's an appropriate time for investment in a "big idea that's not going to come out of a spreadsheet."

When it comes to relationships, Karens claimed that brands are looking to their partners for guidance. "As a client we are looking for agencies to help us figure out the right model." Reed called the current system a "consultative model." Kleinberg and Reed agreed that the key to survival is for agencies to look beyond their own margins and focus on adding value for their clients and their customers. And that means collaborating in new ways that could push you beyond your comfort zone. From a publisher's standpoint, Purcell pointed out that publishers are open to experimentation and starting new conversations about how to reach consumers.

Ultimately, the data explosion means great things for marketing, but only if we recognize its current limitations. "My fear is we are going to lose serendipity," Reed said, warning attendees of the dangers of over-targeting, which can deny a broad audience of those "ah ha moments." Kleinberg shared a story about a fellow agency that claims all of its creative is data-driven, to which he responded: "Boy, your creative must suck." The point is that just because we have all of this information doesn't mean we don't also have powerful brains. Human reasoning and clever ideas are irreplaceable in advertising, and many would argue, so are agencies.

"Concept of teamwork and integration with businessman holding colorful puzzle" image via Shutterstock.

One Response to “How data proliferation is changing agency relationships”

  1. Andre Lejeune says:

    Reed's comment hits the nail on the head. Agencies are business and technology advisors as well as creative resources. In our work with hundreds of agencies, we find that having the right marketing automation technology is key to not only the client's success but the agency's as well. And that means technology vendors need to be active partners with agencies to help them decipher the data and optimize campaigns as well as manage to the budget. Not all marketing automation technology does this as each vendor has designed their solution for a specific market. Here a few videos - Mercedes, Audi, PSA Banque - on the power of collaboration between agencies, clients and technology.

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