ADOTAS – It’s that time of year again: budget prep. Every fall CMOs across all industries are asked to predict the future without the benefit of a crystal ball or even a new iPad. As technologies and ad innovations rocket by at top speed, matching your revenue and lead generation goals and allocating media spend is becoming an increasingly hair-raising task.
The past few months alone saw the launch of Google+, the retirement of Facebook Places and the release of the Kindle Fire, and Google’s acquisition of Motorola and Zagat. Marketing has become a many-limbed creature, not unlike Uma Thurman’s headpiece in the recent film “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” (For those without a tween in the house, Uma played Medusa).
The perennial challenge remains: reaching smart, cautious consumers with the right mix of short-term tactics while keeping your eye on the big picture. What is new is the way advertisers and agencies approach this challenge: with integrated strategy rather than isolated channels.
Recently my friend and Covario CEO Russ Mann talked about how SEM agencies are rebranding themselves as “digital marketing software companies.” This is one of many ramifications as technology providers collaborate to develop new platforms that don’t just access one database but many interconnected ones, creating systems.
You can easily draw a comparison to the relationship of advertisers and agencies today. Smart companies are moving from isolated platforms to interconnected systems. Just as software and data used to be locked in independent mainframes behind firewalls, the power of new devices and the support of the cloud allow agencies to form collaborative networks.
As our relationships with Kenshoo, eVisibility‘s fully integrated web development team and 15miles allow greater breadth of services, digital marketing agencies must now offer their clients a sophisticated level of campaign integration to be relevant in today’s market. They must have the ability to create systems where there were isolated platforms.
By leveraging the strategic knowledge of expert teams, coupled with tools to interconnect previously siloed data, common metrics, and market insight, the best agencies make it possible to connect display, paid search, SEO and social media – all platforms where data resides in the cloud.
This represents a tremendous change in our industry that will have a significant impact on the way online advertising is conceived and implemented. Five years ago, digital marketing was so new that almost all of the agencies were siloed into one expertise: SEM, SEO, email, etc.
As new platforms, channels and technologies launched, shrewd advertisers began noticing a disconnect. Perceptive media strategists asked themselves, “What’s the point of sending traffic to a page that hasn’t been optimized? Can you do SEO without social media? Does it make sense to run a display campaign without attribution management and an efficient PPC campaign?”
On the agency side, innovative account directors came to the same conclusions and their agencies evolved. Rather than being confined to a single area of expertise, they ramped up their technical and strategic offerings to provide a dazzling depth and breadth of services required for their clients’ — and their own – success.
A Basic Misunderstanding
There are several challenges to implementing this beautiful new paradigm, for both agencies and the advertisers. One of them is that social media is misunderstood by both agencies and clients.
SEO experts think of social media in terms of backlinks. How can I use social media to generate incoming links to boost my clients ranking? SEM providers naturally gravitate to Facebook ads and direct response. How can I push my message out for consumers to receive? In fact, social media not about what you have to sell, it is about creating a dialogue with consumers and as such should be a component of every communications plan.
Most advertisers know they need social media, but they are thinking tactically rather than strategically, falling prey to the “check box syndrome” in which they are satisfied by setting up a Twitter account or a Facebook page instead of thinking about how to leverage it long-term. The questions companies need to be ask themselves is not “do we have it?” but “why are we doing it?” and “are we doing it right?”
The New Breed of Agencies
Which is where the new breed of agencies comes in. An agency that offers the ability to design, launch and measure a fully integrated campaign can help clients think long term about both tactics and strategy. Depending on your industry, connecting dots between online, mobile, email, call centers, stores, and field sales to drive a consistent brand experience can make the competitive difference.
As you plan your 2012 budget, how are you allocating your dollars? This year it’s about creating the right balance; delivering multichannel campaigns with rich, high-quality ad experiences that connect with customers and are connected by systems. Read my column next month for practical tips on integration.