Digital needs to grow up

In my last post, I discussed in length the 5 major challenges Digital Agencies face today as they try to grow their individual shares of the growing digital ad spend pie. Today I’ll offer a few suggestions towards this goal.

To use a sports metaphor, Online needs to stop projecting itself as the new kid on the playground, with the shinier bat and pads. Fancy flash dashboards and a dazzling array of metrics will get you only so far with astute marketing heads. If you want to score then build partnerships, and you may get to bat up the order someday. The traditional guys own the relationships. If we keep telling them online is going to gobble up offline, they’ll only get more protective of their turf.

Online shops must start by understanding what it is that has made traditional media agencies so indispensable to clients. Firstly, Offline delivers tangible campaigns that touches all our major senses – hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, the last 3 through sampling and retail experiences. A billboard on a busy intersection, a full-page ad on the back of MX, a kiosk in the centre of a high footfall suburban mall are all examples we associate with advertising from our growing up experiences. To those of us who have made advertising and marketing our careers, these are the first channels we instinctively turn to for a brand activity. Online ads cannot deliver the same lasting impact or memorability as TV, as proved by a recent UK study.

Display agencies combat this by promising to deliver ‘bonus’ impressions and clicks to their clients. This is done in conjunction with publishers who provide cheap RON impressions across their vast network of sites. These are then presented within a ‘campaign over delivery’ section in the post analysis report. PPC agencies do not go down this route as Search is a ‘client pays only for clicks’ model. This leaves Search agencies at a disadvantage compared to their Display counterparts as their only USP is the promise of quality leads through direct response. But here’s the risk. Since Search agencies concentrate so much on search metrics not on marketing outcomes, clients see search as a commodity service. This lowers the barriers to exit and could lead to them either changing agencies or going in-house to save on substantial management fees. So Digital Agencies need to think of enhanced value and establish a clear differentiator.

There are 2 kinds of clients out there and we need to have separate approaches for these:
1. Those who don’t get online and let their traditional agency lead
2. Those who get online, but have all the online agencies knocking on their door or realize if they are spending all that money they may as well take it in-house

There are 5 things agencies need to do to make themselves resilient:
1. Start creating experiments to show finite effect of Search/Display on offline events. Eg Coupons available only on a search landing page
2. Build attribution models for clients to prove offline-online effect. They won’t do it so we have to.
3. Engage traditional agency heads and clients directly. Don’t leave the PR to your Search Engine rep. 
4. Cut the search/online jargon. It took years for people to understand GRPs and TARPs, don’t make them swallow CPCs, Quality Score and Rank now.
5. Think like marketers not search geeks. It’s all about market share. Hire a few MBA’s if you have to.

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Posted in Digital, Opinion, Search Marketing / PPC

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