If ad land was a real country, we could probably compare it to the post-Napoleon Europe. Revolutionary army swept through the continent, abolishing countries, institutions, laws and the whole world order with it. What was left was chaos and confusion. The natural reaction is to try and continue as nothing ever happened, but invariably, reality comes knocking and we realise that nothing will ever be the same.
Today we live in a similar era. The post digital era. Everything has changed in the ad land, yet we haven't quite yet figured out what it ultimately means for both the agencies and clients. In order to do it, we need to go back to the basics. In other words, we need to go back to the fundamental question of why we are doing what we are doing. This means refocusing from campaigns (which are merely means to an end) to the real business goals, which are almost always a function of either revenue growth, efficiency or a combination of both.
We know that digital brought about channel convergence, multi-screen behaviour and gave new power for advocacy through social channels. These are only some of the symptoms we are dealing with and very often, the knee-jerk reaction is an attempt to simply replicate the campaigns across all channels (including social). Some even call it "integration" but the reality is far more complex and scarier than that.
To fully understand it we need to look at the bottom line. Higher competition means eroding margins. Disjointed brand experiences mean no control over total media ROI and lack of control over the customer as they pass from one environment to another. Understanding these challenges and translating them into concrete business goals has to be the starting point – not the campaign brief with a demographic profile of an audience we are trying to bombard with messaging.
Today we need to think of a new way of building brands and making them financially successful, and to get there we need data – business data, campaign data, web data. The data allows us to look at the marketing challenges in a completely different way, remove the layers of complexity and translate the insights into real goals and actions.
Our job is no longer just about buying and executing campaigns. It is about decoding the consumer behaviour and intent and translating it into financially viable and brand led marketing solutions rather than generic campaigns, which are likely to be blocked out and ignored by the audience anyway.
Based on insights from campaigns, CRM and web, today performance agencies are able to deliver consumer led solutions such as web / platform build, content and media strategy but also advice on optimal business structure, KPIs, internal processes and governance.
Historically, and to some extent unfortunately still today, performance agencies were pigeon-holed as those responsible merely for direct response campaigns and singularly focused on ROI delivered through antiquated last click model. This is changing and it needs to as the old “funnel and campaign” thinking simply fails to deliver results in the post-digital reality.
True performance agencies are dedicated to convergence ecosystem understanding and planning whereby they fully understand the role of both context lead creative delivery and platform connectivity. They fully understand the value each component ads to business outcomes and how consumers connect and converge within them. This delivers true demonstrable business outcomes and is the reason why the future, at least the near one, belongs to performance agencies. It is the access to data and the ability to translate it into actionable business solutions that gives them this power.
Today, performance agencies are best placed to be the true "Agents of Change" and deliver demonstrable business outcomes through data led consumer understanding and embracing a convergent media ecosystem.
It’s time we stop talking about campaigns and instead focus on data and what it tells us about our consumers.