The Magic Space Of Digital Marketing Today

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Does the term “digital marketing” make any sense, at this point?

It’s the “digital” part that gets everyone so irritated. The rational thought is: “what advertising isn’t digital?” That’s fair ball. The “digital” part may be more useless and nebulous than it was over a decade ago, when the idea of using digital channels and production was still nascent, and a minor component of the marketing mix. In order for marketers to maintain any semblance of relevancy today, they must be digital at the core.

Digital at the core? 

What does that mean? It’s one thing for an agency to offer digital marketing and advertising services, but a service offering does not make an agency digital at the core. When asked what a digital marketing agency does differently than a tradition agency (now, more commonly referred to, as “full service” or an “integrated” agency), the answer is usually staring everyone right in the face. The companies that have a more Madison Avenue (or traditional advertising) legacy in their blood, still think of solutions from an advertising perspective (or, “what is the messaging that the consumer will see about the brand?”) mixed with a media solution (or, “this is where the messaging should go! (and this is how much it’s going to cost us!)”). Digital at the core takes a different perspective. Digital marketing agencies (if that’s what we’re still going to call them) look much more like solution providers than an advertising outcome. For my part (and yes, my perspective on this is completely slanted, because I have been in the digital marketing space since the early nineties), advertising is but one lever that our agency, Mirum, likes to pull to drive attention (in a myriad of ways) to the solutions that we provide to a brand. Digital marketing agencies provide technology solutions, management consulting, the building of platforms and channels, and are that much more able to become a Chief Marketing Officer’s true advisor, partner, and the ones to execute on the global brand vision.

This is less about digital marketing, and much more about the marketer’s needs. 

If you speak to any leading marketing professional, the story is systematically the same. They are given more work – above and beyond managing the advertising and communications portfolio. These leaders are expected to tie-in much closer with IT, to handle the digital transformation of the business, build different customer experiences, think of new revenue generation models, help decide how the data and analytics should be used (and stored), what the over-arching business strategy should be, understand the customer journey, figure out where content plays into the experience, be future-focused on disruptive technologies, provide insights on startups and other competitive forces and, of course, create a great advertising messages. When you span the arena of partners that can help this individual to be successful – and to support this new and diverse skill set – it still feels like a digital marketing agency is best positioned to be their primary partners.

The Magic Quadrant for Global Digital Marketing Agencies.

When we first started our agency as Twist Image back in 2000 (we changed the name to Mirum about a year ago), we would analyze the competitive landscape… obsessively. We knew that we didn’t want to be just another advertising agency, and we truly wanted brands to work with technology to get closer to their consumers. With that, I have always followed Gartner‘s work in this space, and read their reports on who was leading the charge. Yesterday, Mirum issued a press release because Mirum had been named to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Global Digital Marketing Agencies. From Gartner’s report: “For this year’s Magic Quadrant, we looked at firms that focus on strategizing, creating, executing and measuring customer?facing digital experiences across the customer journey. For consideration, providers needed to demonstrate an ability to deliver comprehensive strategic services, creative and content services, technology implementation, measurement, and analytics — and a close alignment with the marketing needs of global brands, whose leaders seek those specific competencies when choosing a marketing service partner.”  

Mirum is a part of the Visionaries quadrant.

What’s most interesting about this report (beyond everyone on the Mirum team being extremely proud to be included only one year after our creation), is Gartner’s “Market Overview” section, in which they declare, “the traditional agency model is broken.” From the report: “In 2016, CMOs are rethinking their brands’ dependence on external marketing agencies. Many aren’t convinced that external firms are the right allies to take into battle, highlighting a continued trend among CMOs to build internal marketing capabilities or even establish in-house agencies. The reason for this shift is two-fold. First, CMOs want creativity as a core tenet of their own teams. In May 2015, Chobani CMO Peter McGuinness told Digiday, ‘The more you outsource, the less of a creative culture you have.’ In October 2015, Brad Wakeman, president of PepsiCo‘s global beverage group, went further, shaking the agency world with his assertion that unless it innovates, the traditional agency model ‘is not going to bend, it’s going to break.’ For their part, agencies rightly critique marketers’ ineffective briefing processes and the use of the agency pitch to score spec work, which drives up costs on both sides, according to Eve Reiter, VP of Global Supply Management at American Express. Indeed, the selection process greatly influences the client/agency relationship success. Marketers (not procurement alone) must invest time and effort to fully vet an agency, taking care to clearly illuminate business goals and challenges. In doing so, the agency can properly vet them in return. Agency selection left largely to procurement, and beholden to stringent process versus open conversation, neutralizes a critical element of a successful creative partnership — the ability to challenge each other. To help their clients compete in today’s global and digital marketplace, agencies need to rethink traditional models of engagement and execution. Three rounds of creative review may be three rounds too late for relevance to today’s always-on consumer. Outdated staffing models may create scope creep, or worse (for agencies), dollars left on the table. The leaders in this Magic Quadrant are finding ways to disrupt themselves from within — through, for example, more flexible compensation models — and deliver newfound agility to their clients.” 

Call it ”digital marketing agency,” call it an “advertising agency,” or call it a ”marketing agency.” Is it really delivering? That’s the point.

You can read the full report right here: Magic Quadrant for Global Digital Marketing Agencies.