If you look at the world of marketing agencies and technology, it becomes obvious: companies want control.
Technology used to be hard. You needed massive servers and licensed software and computers and more hardware and networking and more. You still need that to run an efficient organization, but the cloud really has changed everything. Software as service (SAS) or buying by the seat or usage is now commonplace. The latest versions of softwares are upgraded in the cloud, and all customers of the software company are always on the latest version. When things go sideways, backing up (for many) is a simple as plugging in a new laptop and letting the cloud back-up service work its magic. The companies that understand this, are taking control back from the mercy of third-party resellers, value-added resellers and the IT consultants. From an agency perspective, the bad press is not from marketing budgets or the value that big agencies provide or the shifts to digital media. Those are red herrings. Brands are bringing the marketing services inside. Internal marketing teams. Clients want to control their brands… and they should.
This is the paradox of control and the true friction in business today.
On one hand, the brand should have control. On the other hand, they’ve spent decades engaging, trusting and allowing agency partners (or IT consultants) to control the brand. So, companies want the brand back, but they don’t have the experience, strategy, creativity, technology and media capabilities to truly do what must be done to make it happen. They’ve spent decades empowering agencies, who have turned around and built advertising into the trillion dollar business that it is today. In the process, the value of creativity and production has been diminished, as the focus for the agencies became the placement and price of the media (some might argue that this is still the case, and the primary problem with the duopoly that is Google and Facebook).
Brands want the control back.
As a recovering marketing agency professional, I can see, understand and empathize with both sides. Companies should retain control of their own brands and the data that comes along with it. On the other hand, having outside partners that bring new, fresh and interesting ideas to the table should never be dismissed. What we will see – in the near future – are more hybrid models and true partnerships, but the industry must first go through these tumultuous times. These tumultuous times do not seem to be over (just yet). The shakeout (disruption) is happening right now. This too shall pass, and the outcome will be one of the most incredible times for creativity, innovation, media and advertising.
This isn’t Pollyanna. You will see.
This brand leadership (and partnership) will happen. Brands will then partner with agencies… and they will be true partnerships. Agencies will provide layers of services (think production, programmatic, content, etc…) that support the brand, and complement the marketing and advertising team. Right now, we are in a place where the agencies are taking a lot of the blame for what woes the brands (look no further than the constant changing of the agency guards and media reviews). Agencies have – for decades – been the one to take the pressure and heat from the brands when times are tough. What we’re seeing now, is that the brands are changing, adapting and taking control. They are changing too (not just asking that their agency partners change). If the clients feel like the agencies are fragmented, they too must become less fragmented. Once the brands get centralized (death to all silos – from data to departments), everything will change… and it will change for the better.
It’s all about control… and that’s a good thing for everyone… especially the consumer.