Laetitia Zinetti, Ebiquity’s Practice Principal for Strategic Media Consultancy, welcomes the considered approach that advertisers are starting to take before putting media business out for pitch.
For advertisers today, the increasingly digital media landscape offers unprecedented opportunities to connect – often directly – with consumers and customers. Yet the sheer complexity of the ecosystem threatens to overwhelm even the best-informed marketer. This threat is nowhere more obvious and potentially more damaging than in many advertisers’ perceived need to change media agency. This is often driven by a desire to capitalize on the opportunities they believe their current agency partners may be failing to seize on their behalf.
Over the course of the last year, we’ve been involved in more than 100 pitches for advertisers looking to refresh – and often change – their media agency of record. Some of these have been local, single-territory deals; many more have been regional, or global, multi-territory relationships. A quarter have been with the world’s leading advertisers. What has emerged during engagements with bigger, progressive advertisers is the increasing amount of work they now undertake before they ever go out to tender.
Changing media agency is an upheaval that advertisers should not enter lightly, and preparing the way for transition to a new agency partner – or a refreshed relationship with an established agency of record – requires both outward and inward-looking analysis. Advertisers need to make themselves aware of and understand what’s available in the market. But they also need to ensure that their own organizations are set up to succeed with new agency partners.
During recent engagements, we’ve observed five key trends among advertisers which show how behavior over agency partner selection is evolving.
The sheer complexity of the digital media ecosystem threatens to overwhelm even the best-informed marketer.
1. Analyze the agency
Progressive advertisers are increasingly auditing the capabilities of their agency partners to understand what works – and what needs addressing – within current relationships and processes. This analysis often covers a diverse range of capabilities assessment, plus also data access rights and transparency, as well as identifying the detailed composition of the right tech stack to meet marketing objectives. This enables advertisers to define the key issues and challenges, set benchmarks, and prioritize what needs to change.
2. Audit internal organization
Understanding existing – and competitive – agency capabilities is critical; agency partners clearly need to provide what advertisers want and need. But it is equally important for advertisers to fully specify and articulate their own internal organization and processes to understand whether their own structure allows the agency to deliver what’s required of it. Often it does not.
Advertisers need to set brand requirements, business objectives, and KPIs. What’s more, they need to ensure they have the right talent and internal organization to support the agency. This means having the right people in the right roles, as well as ensuring that key internal partners – particularly marketing and procurement – understand and respect their mutual roles. The key outcome of this internal analysis is to define the optimum process and governance for future agency relationships.
3. Transform the organization
Given the unprecedented pace of change in marketing and marketing technology, every advertiser faces the imperative to transform their business to be fit for the digital age. This means advertising in its broadest sense, but it also encompasses the entire customer journey, taking in an increasingly broad cross-section of disciplines – from marketing to insight, customer relationship management to human resources, internal comms to employee engagement. Too often, however, the component parts of the potentially integrated whole operate in disconnected silos.
In pre-pitch work, we are increasingly observing progressive advertisers taking meaningful strides toward genuine transformation of their marketing communications infrastructure. This includes evaluating how they plan to embrace the evolving media landscape, restructuring so they stop working in silos, and building and executing better integrated campaign plans. It requires advertisers to be more agile, more data minded, and ready to be in a permanent state of test and learn – to experiment with and then optimize new communications opportunities as they emerge. In turn, this helps to shape the role that media agencies should play as genuine partners in this transformation.
In pre-pitch work, we are increasingly observing progressive advertisers taking meaningful strides toward genuine transformation of their marketing communications infrastructure.
4. Prepare the contract
Before requests for proposals are issued, we find that progressive advertisers are increasingly bringing marketing and procurement together to draft and prepare a contract that is truly fit for purpose and for advertisers’ needs. Then, and only then, is it issued as a prerequisite for agencies participating in the pitch. The purpose – and benefits – of this approach help to guarantee data transparency by ensuring that all rights clauses are included in the contract.
5. Take control of adtech
A recent survey we conducted with the WFA showed that 70 percent of advertisers spend money with adtech and martech vendors governed through contracts held by media agencies on advertisers’ behalf. Often, these contracts fail to deliver data transparency. However, 30 percent of advertisers hold contracts directly with vendors, even if they ask their agencies to administer adtech – such as ad servers and ad verification – on their behalf. This proportion is growing and is evidence of advertisers looking to take back control of both their relationships and their data.
By taking these steps before putting their media agency contracts out to tender, progressive advertisers are establishing the elements they need to write better, more appropriate briefs that suit their circumstances. This, in turn, generates better responses from the most appropriate partners.
Advertiser-agency relationships typically last at least three years, though often much longer. So, this approach enables advertisers to set better relationships in the medium to long term with the winning agency – or, indeed, to reset the relationship they have with their existing agency. It enables them to test which agency has the best fit and the right understanding of its challenges, the best capabilities, and the most suitable talents to be their partner.
It really does make sense to look before you leap – to plan before you pitch.
 See ‘Breaking free from the swim lane mentality’ by Andrew Challier in this issue of Response
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