Marketing leaders today are showered by the number of advertising agency suppliers promising digital capability and insight. The industry continues to evolve as it responds to advertiser demand. Companies, organizations, and brands seek to engage across multiple media platforms with targeted consumers. It’s a cacophony of options (love that word!) marked by an exciting convergence of art, science, technology and business skill sets.
For marketing leaders looking to find a digital agency, vetting agency choices require a different approach than the standard agency search and selection. The decision to find a digital agency represents a significant financial investment, not just in activating the partner, but in the work to come.
Today’s companies often sport rosters with multiple advertising agency relationships; while it may feel a little crowded, each agency may be in place to support various marketing strategies, lines of business, channel tactics, geographies, or scopes of work. So why add another? The strongest rationale to find a digital agency starts with a vision and clear definition of the business outcome to be achieved as companies strive to increase their digital sophistication.
When we consult with client companies that want to hire an advertising agency resource, we recommend that they start the agency search with the “3 C’s”:
- Capability– additive skills to be delivered via the agency talent, process, or technology
- Cultural Fit– alignment of core values and future ways of working
- Cost- with the context of management’s ROI goals, assess competitive agency costs, fee structures, and performance metrics
When we want to find a digital agency specifically, we recommend they sharpen the focus on the “3 T’s”:
- Time – with digital campaigns, extended time frames are needed to build and generate results
- Team – an understanding of the breadth of talent, co-owned media properties, network partners, sub-contractors and the role of each
- Technology – requirements for front-end development, system integration, quality assurance and development standards in support of digital brand experiences and communication
Don’t Get Lost in the Weeds
Creating understanding and consensus regarding the expectations for digital agency performance falls on the shoulders of our marketing leaders. To do this (and to ensure colleagues don’t glaze over) most leaders remain at the heart of things, results-oriented and outcome based. This approach also works at the C-suite level where the appetite for details about digital marketing gravitates towards the end goal, i.e., the what and not necessarily the how. The recommendation to find a digital agency is best positioned as the means to this end.
Into The Woods
It’s easy to feel lost in the forest of conversation around digital marketing – or even know what an advertising agency might be able to do for you!
Several newer frameworks can help when discussing agency contributions to a client’s goals.
- One example is to parse work in terms of specific initiatives for digital creation, digital innovation, digital collaboration and digital participation.
- Another framework is to explore the advertiser’s goal to achieve better media literacy as well as better data literacy, enabled through agency-provided technology and interpretative skills.
- Lastly, albeit ambitious, is to establish a holistic framework based on a unified digital platform that fully integrates various company data and processes.
Vetting digital ad agency choices is time-consuming. Scope planning is time-consuming. Checking references is time-consuming. Contract negotiation is time-consuming. The lesson behind the century-old poem April Showers bring May Flowers is believed to be one about patience, followed by abundance.
Advertisers in the process of digital transformation can realize abundant marketing results when they select and hire the right mix of advertising agency partners. Today’s paradox of choice requires a bit of patience to follow the latest sourcing and selection practices and to mind those C’s and T’s. The result will be finding the just-right digitally-skilled agencies to partner with into the next season. The good news? It’s raining talent and opportunity.
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