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Choosing A Media Agency: Look Inside & Hold Up The Mirror
In our industry, we are constantly evaluating the way we choose our vendors and agencies. Increasingly, we are applying the same scrutiny, inspection and even introspection to how we choose our clients.
Matches made in heaven are rare and certainly not static. The landscape around us is constantly changing, so keeping the evaluation ongoing and tuned to current and future states, is the best way to foster healthy partnerships.
I had the pleasure recently of sitting down with a couple of media agency executives to talk about the wisdom and art of choosing the right media agency for your business.
What was remarkable was the level of introspection that these agency execs put into their guidance. As they shared their thoughts on the best ways to evaluate and choose agencies, they shared an internal view.
The Important Questions To Ask
As with cycles that have come before, there has again been a shift in how agencies are evaluated, given the new landscape and opportunities. Picking your agency used to be a lot about evaluating buying power. You would ask yourself how much clout and, for all intents and purposes, how much of a credit line, a given agency had with the publisher community, to gauge how they could best represent your quest for your target audience at scale. Who could help you nail your “reach” requirement.
But, with the new inventory landscape and entrance of automation, we must look away from straight buying power of the agencies that support us, as we evaluate and put more value on things like tech comfort levels, systems and very specific skills sets and talent. In fact, the tech stack has become central to what goes on between us.
The Tech’s The Thing
It’s no longer about the credentials a given agency has with the publisher community or their buying power. There’s a deeper ad tech requirement. The good news is that agencies know this, and they expect to be evaluated accordingly. From their vantage point, they clearly see:
- The new tech underpinnings of the marketplace
- Consolidation and re-definition of agency family trees and specialty shops
- The prevalence of the trading desk and the programmatic economy
- Marketers’ reliance on data analytics
- A changed, more synchronous relationship between media and creative optimization
For their part, as they tune to this reality, agencies are doing a number of things to take internal stock and suit up on all these points. They are investing in systems and training from the inside out. Specialists are more integrated into their media organization, and no longer siloed or put up on some internal new media pedestal, as they refine their media philosophies.
Wholly embracing adapting to the programmatic picture, whether they have a trading desk or not, agencies hire people who know their way around it. They are maturing their approach to data, recognizing that evolved, useful insights are crucial to their clients, so they must do more with their data to service marketers in a meaningful way.
And finally, agencies acknowledge the changing relationship between media and creative, understanding that they must make media as creative as the creative is, in order to get the whole mix to thrive.
As it has always been and always will be, the agency expects to be evaluated and put somewhat under the microscope. In many ways, they’ve come to understand that such scrutiny on them and the agency model comes with the territory.
But, it’s also important to understand how high a standard the good ones hold themselves. They’ve got it. At the same time, they’ve got some hearty advice for the client side, in order to play well as a partner to a good agency.
In short: hold the mirror up. As we suit up for the present and the future, you too — marketers and clients alike — must be ready for the new reality. Train, staff and acclimate for the technology, the imperative to combine big data and judgment and certainly, programmatic.
To be a good partner to a good agency, you’ve got to take your own readiness and understanding as seriously as you expect they would.
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