HCF CMO: Agencies Are Light Years Away From Understanding MarTech

HCF CMO: Agencies Are Light Years Away From Understanding MarTech

HCF CMO Jenny Williams has delivered a damning assessment of agency land in Australia labelling creative, digital and media shops as all unable to meet her needs as a modern MarTech-wielding marketer.

David Hovenden
Posted by David Hovenden

Speaking with B&T in Las Vegas at Adobe’s Marketing Cloud Summit, Williams said that the world had moved on from the traditional services offered by agency land and that there was little choice for corporations but to bring much of their marketing activity in-house to fully embrace the power on offer from MarTech providers such as Adobe.

Williams also said that she had been inspired by Royal Bank of Scotland’s head of analytics Giles Richardson’s keynote address at the Summit to reconsider the traditional creative partnership of art director/copy writer. She said that she was going to try a threesome instead.

RBS’s Richardson had told the 10,000 strong audience at Summit how he had developed Superstar DJs to optimise the customer experience journey, which were really an analytics person and a content producer.

Williams, however, could see that to meet her marketing needs, she would require three people to work in partnership. The reason came down to the world being governed by rules. Rules set by machines driving algorithms made by MarTech.

“The Adobe Marketing Cloud enables us to create rules-based content delivery effectively. Whether that content goes out through [Adobe] Campaign or whether it’s going out through [Adobe Experience Manager] or whether it’s going out through [Adobe Mobile], it’s all about the customisation of that data through rules.

“What you actually program into the rules, that’s the differentiator between me and MediBank in the future. How well I write my rules and how much content I have that delivers real insight-driven personalisation under that content.

“To write those rules you need analytics guy, because analytics guy can find the gaps and tell you what to optimise and gradually the tools will get better at alerting you to those gaps and prioritising those and using data science to analyse those to determine whether it works or not, so analytics guy is critical.

“Then you’ve got producer guy, who knows how to use the tools to program the rules to make it happen. Producer person is a combination of a programmer and a marketer.

“And then you need content guy. Content guy is creative. They are images, words, video, sourcing stuff.”

Perhaps even more illuminating for any budding creative, Williams believes the creative person needs to be a combination of both art director and copywriter. “Otherwise you’re going to end up with too many people,” she added.

“My instincts are that the average advertising agency is light years away from being able to understand what this is. And your average digital agency is still building sites and implementing gizmos and gadgets and so forth.

“It’s going to come down to the clients to put those pieces of talent together in their organisation. Maybe that’s just because I’m client side now that I see that, but having come from agency side I think that space in the middle just requires things to be done in-house.”

Williams also had an opinion of media agencies, which she said she found to be still quite siloed.

“They tend to get really specialised. You’ll have the guy that’s doing search optimisation, then you’ll have the guy who’s doing display optimisation, the guy who’s doing the video optimisation and the guy who’s doing TV buys. You do have a little bit of integration at the top, but what they’re not necessarily doing is the creative test, learn optimise piece.”

She also said that in the Australian market there is a dearth of MarTech talent. “They’re like unicorns; it’s too hard to find them.”

Williams said that she was going to follow RBS’ Richardson in not hiring digital analytics people, rather just hiring analytics guys and then teaching them marketing.

“If they’ve got the right maths skillset, we teach them Adobe, we teach them what they need to do and that’s all they do. They don’t care about the pictures and so forth, it’s just all numbers for them.”

Overall, despite her negative assessment of agencies, Williams said she was excited about where marketing was going and what MarTech was now making possible.

“All of the barriers to achieving attribution, responsiveness, effectiveness etc are gradually starting to fall, which just means you can get to the point where you’re doing it smarter. The challenge is as you get the ability to do all that, your competitors get it too …

“At an industry level it’s always interesting to observe how these things change and wanting to be at the front riding the wave. I think it’s exciting that a lot of those technologies and things that we can play with without having to make big investments and create big infrastructures and that sort of stuff changes the dynamic.

“I think though, there’s a piece that sits underneath all of that, which goes back to the heart of what we do, which is that the actual creative idea, we now have to think a lot harder about. The creative idea has to be your differentiator.”

Williams said that the old advertising model was we’ll have one big idea, but MarTech now needed much, much more.

“We’ll have strategy develop the insight, the creative department develops this one big idea, and we pump it out across all of the channels. Well that doesn’t work because in digital there are so many more channels and that holds true today.

“The big idea does still needs to be there, but it has to be a much bigger, much more core idea; something that will resonate with everyone. Touch some basic core human truth. But then how you then replicate that across every channel, the number of times you have to find the nuances of that and the amount of work involved in creative optimisation is enormous.

“I think the challenge for advertisers and agencies in that world is how they do that multiplication? What does this idea mean to segment X when they’re at this stage of the buying cycle and if they respond to it in this way how do we then respond back?

“So it’s almost like artificial intelligence ideas applied to marketing, which creates an exponential growth in the content creation space.”

And that, is where the traditional agency model falls into trouble. MarTech is making life difficult.