At ExchangeWire’s ATS London 2018, Infinitive Executive Fiona Davis took part in a panel discussion – “Madtech & the Future of the Service Layer,” with Belinda Smith (global director, media, Electronic Arts) and Shula Sinclair (Spark Foundry) on the evolving relationships between marketers, consultancies and agencies.
It’s a timely topic, given the continued blurring of traditional lines between marketing agencies, technology providers and consulting organizations and the intensifying of competition in the digital marketing space. Brands build/buy and manage their own MarTech/AdTech stacks as they strive to control their data assets and provide greater visibility into their marketing spend. In addition, Accenture, Deloitte and other big consultancies are now regularly planning and executing media, competing with traditional agencies.
In this shifting environment, global marketers are becoming much more focused on attribution, Davis said, and justifying all of their investments, including media. But media is only one variable in the equation of effective marketing, circa 2018. More holistic cross-channel strategies have never been more important as they drive toward true multi-touch attribution.
“Media has to sit much more succinctly with the rest of your direct marketing. Whether that’s email, physical mail, in-store, whatever it is – the expectation internally is that you are able to speak across all of that stack now, rather than just talk about media.”
The Big Question: What to Buy? What to Build?
“The number one most asked question we get when we go in to do a consulting gig is, ‘should I be building this [solution] or should I be buying it?’,” she said. “There are still companies out there, very large, global companies, that will say, ‘We think we want to build a DMP.’ You’ve actually got to go through and pull apart the reasoning behind it and why people are trying to do things.”
There is a risk that the drive to save money by building their own technology will cause organizations to take on too much or in-house what is best outsourced. For example, some firms consider building their own ad servers – not a good idea.
The latest “hot new thing” in the industry, customer data platforms (CDPs) may be the trickiest of the buy-or-build conundrums. “Everyone is asking should we buy one or should we build one? There are so many people pitching themselves in the space with completely different products and coming at it from totally different angles that marketers are genuinely unsure of what to do. Even very technical people – entire tech teams of super smart people and data scientists – may not know whether to do X or Y. And sometimes they’ll make a decision to build because they don’t know what else to do.”
Of course, they may need to revisit that decision in a year’s time and consider an off-the-shelf solution. The point is, “When it’s new tech, it’s hard to make that decision and evaluate it in the right way,” added Davis.
CDPs are just the latest example of the fast-moving, constantly changing digital marketing landscape. Even experienced marketers can feel overwhelmed. The best way to approach the challenges of adapting to the evolving landscape? Finding the right balance, according to Davis.
“Rethinking” the Organization to Improve Overall Results
Large global enterprises are also challenged by their size and decentralization. “We often go in and meet with five different departments across the company and the left hand never knows what the right hand is doing,” said Davis. “The agency is typically the only one with a helicopter view of everything, or at least media-buying. But the problem with big global companies, especially CPGs, is that they don’t have one agency, but there will be five, or even 46 in the case of one client.”
As an example, it can take months to even understand how much is being spent on programmatic media globally, much less analyze it for stronger results. Reinventing the wheel with tech, using different buying models and engaging many programmatic buyers – all of which can cause “massive overspending” – are among the issues faced by organizations that can’t coordinate and synchronize across silos and regions.
“You’ve got to have someone that has some oversight – whether it’s a consultancy firm or agency – that you can see across departments and get some sense of what’s going on,” Davis said. “There’s got to be a general rethinking in large organizations about the way they’ve siloed themselves internally and how they’ve KPI’d their people. You can’t do cross-channel marketing if people aren’t talking to each other.”
Some organizations have tried centers of excellence to coordinate marketing activities or to solve technical issues. Those approaches rarely work without budget control. When deploying new technology across business units or functions, organizations must still ensure users adopt the new tools and technology.
The Big Balancing Act: In-Housing vs Agencies and Advertising vs. Marketing
The growing traction of in-housing doesn’t mean everything should be in-housed. In-housing a DMP, for example, doesn’t mean agencies can’t add value. It’s more about defining the right access for agency staff so they can provide analysis in the areas they know best, such as audience planning, and share proven techniques from other campaigns and other companies.
“If you have a collaborative relationship with your agency, you’ll both benefit from that conversation,” said Davis. “But there has to be a certain amount of in-house experience to even have that conversation.” Consultancies can often be the bridge to define the best ways to use technologies collaboratively in pursuit of improved marketing performance and driving the desired outcomes.
It’s also important to stay focused on both the basic and big picture. “New shiny toys” and hot new technologies that enable bid optimization, retargeting and other advanced capabilities can lead organizations to lose focus on basics, such as frequency capping.
Increasingly, attribution is linking today’s data-driven, algorithm-enabled advertising with classic marketing strategies. “If you aren’t doing multi-touch attribution, you are probably overvaluing one channel ridiculously more than you should,” said Davis. Firms with strong attribution models gain a clear sense of how brand advertising works and is best supported by bottom-of-the-funnel activities.
As for finding the right mix of in-house vs. outside capabilities, Davis believes it’s all about balance. “You have to have some expertise in-house, you have to have a good relationship with your agencies, and use a consulting firm to come in and help around specific areas. You can’t be an expert in everything.”