The growing complexity of the consumer landscape and the media environment means that the traditional creative team of art director and copywriter is no longer enough to deliver campaigns that drive high return on investment.
The team structure most advertising agencies have used since the 1950s is hopelessly dated in today’s technology-driven and fragmented media world.
Even the simplest integrated ideas today demand teams of eight or nine people to execute. With the rise of digital technology, we have a range of new complexities to think about as we construct campaigns.
The agency team of the future is multidisciplinary and multichannel, drawing on expertise in customer service, product design, retail space, user experience, branding, database management, reputation, and more – to craft strategies that span channels and create a platform for dialogue with customers.
We are seeing an increased number of specialised team positions and roles as technology changes the way we interact with clients and consumers. For example, the data analyst – to make sense of the growing amounts of available data that contributes to understanding consumers and how they interact with messaging and experiences.”
Another consequence of digital technology is that business solutions are starting to interact and align with marketing messaging and media. Websites and mobile apps are becoming transactional platforms as well as marketing and communications spaces.
Loyalty cards are tied into mobile apps, digital cash registers and websites, bridging the gap between marketing, transaction and customer relationship management. The traditional agency team is ill-equipped to handle this increasingly complex world of converging technologies and communication.
What this means for traditional agencies in practice, is that they must invest in building their own integrated offerings or that they must create strong and meaningful partnerships with external specialists in areas such as Digital. But whichever route they choose, building real ‘tradigital’ competence is not an overnight or small shift.
It requires a fundamental shift in the core of an agency’s internal processes and leadership, in order to create true integration across all services, and not a simple bolt-on digital department.
Then externally, there are many levels to understanding consumer behaviour. For example, unlike traditional media, people need time to live with digital media before feeling comfortable enough to use them to their full capability. They start with simple interactions such as phone calls and emails and graduate to more advanced use, such as online payments via their cellphones.
Eventually, they begin showing behaviours such as simultaneously watching TV, while searching for deeper, richer content on a tablet or smartphone. In this way, they take ownership of the medium.
This process can take up to five years, although this gap will certainly dwindle and eventually disappear as we see today’s more digitally savvy generation growing up with smartphones and tablets and moving into centre stage.
Marketers need to understand the relevance and shift of this experience curve, and how it relates to their target audiences. They must prepare themselves and their brands to engage with this new audience, for whom sharing their opinion, and relying on the opinion of others online, to make purchasing decisions, is totally natural. If a brand tries to live in these digital spaces without understanding them, they could quickly look insincere or shallow.
Just like good TV ads, good digital marketing is entertainment or engagement that gets spoken about and shared. Bad or mediocre TV marketing is mostly seen as noise. But in the online space, this bad marketing is not only ignored, it can often cause long-lasting damage to a brand.
The important question for South African agencies is; who will be brave enough to change the way they work, and who has the appetite for changing the way they service their client. Those agencies will be the future-proof ones primed to thrive in our changing world and the agencies that stay relevant to the brands they work for.
Pete Case is founder and CEO of Gloo.