Not everyone has adapted well to digital disruption. Where once big brands had little choice but to use the services of a media agency to plan and buy their advertising strategies, the digital revolution offers alternatives.

Some marketers are bypassing agencies completely and going directly to media owners to buy ad space. They’re striking deals with platforms such as Google, Facebook and Instagram, while small and medium-sized businesses are buying digital advertising on a self-serve basis.

Meanwhile, automated planning and buying systems, such as programmatic trading, threaten to diminish the role of agencies. Some brands are even ditching agencies altogether and running their media buying in-house, as Vodafone announced in 2018.

It may not be something you want to hear, but media agencies must reassert their relevance and restate their importance to advertisers. They have some powerful factors in their favour. For one thing, consumers are spending ever more time with digital media as their smartphones take over their lives. They’re consuming a wider range of ads than ever. And media outlets are fragmenting, making it hard for clients to navigate an increasingly complex advertising world without the expertise that the media agencies offer.


Next Generation Client Value

Where media agencies have always added value to their clients’ business is through the smart use of data. Agencies are gatekeepers of data about consumer engagement with brands’ messages, how often they see ads and how brands can get more from their marketing budgets.

But even this role is coming under attack as brands attempt to take control of their own data.

For media agencies to maintain their relevance in a changing world, they need to step up their data management capabilities. They must demonstrate to clients their expertise in collecting, analysing and executing strategies using data more efficiently and effectively than clients can do inhouse.

This means gaining a comprehensive overview of campaigns across platforms and channels. Agencies excel when they can demonstrate with hard evidence how they are helping clients improve their business using data to inform everything from ROI to campaign effectiveness and audience engagement.

Ironically, although technology has disrupted business as usual, it’s also technology that’s providing the answer - by using a data analytics platform that both simplifies and widens the way data is viewed and used.

Agencies need a powerful solution with a next-generation data platform that brings multiple data sources into one central repository and empowers them to offer a comprehensive overview of campaigns to clients (something clients struggle to do for themselves).

One of the challenges agencies face is comparing how ads perform on different platforms and channels. That’s where augmented analytics comes in. With the help of Machine Learning agencies can do all of these things, including automatically uploading many different types of data sources and rapidly making sense of all this new information.

It can bring together campaigns from different platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. This allows agencies to share metrics about overall campaigns with clients, demonstrating media spend, conversions and performance – something NPR, VCCP, OMD and AMS are already doing.


Deeper Campaign Insights

Agencies can guide clients through the web impressions, time spent on page and both paid and organic marketing that the campaign involves. By showing clients exactly how every dollar, euro and pound is being spent and how this affects the sales funnel, agencies are able to win back their relevance and value against the backdrop of disruption.

Managers running pay-per-click campaigns and digital marketers engaged in search engine marketing can better understand their marketing spend and results. This requires an in-depth analysis of costs, impressions and the quality of leads, which a powerful data analytics platform provides.

And of course, this in turn informs clients about the return on investment for every part of every campaign over and above traditional ROI by looking at actual revenue impact, such as insights into new product lines, sales performance and influence on both the top and bottom line.

The result is improved performance as agencies get a clear line of sight of the most impactful initiatives, those which need improvement – and those which don’t work well. This helps manage budgets, drive engagement and measure conversion.

Augmented analytics also means agencies can track campaigns in near real-time so both brands and agencies can make “in-flight” changes to messages and creative as the campaign unfolds. This type of dynamic and live tracking lets brands know when their campaigns need sprucing up and where and when to invest more or less based on that performance.


Central Analysis of Disparate Data Sources

Where agencies struggle with data is typically having information spread over multiple systems without a single source of truth. Data is usually collated from separate sources such as AccuRanker, Instagram, Facebook, Google Adwords, Google Analytics, MySQL, Adobe, ResponseTap and Salesforce.

But this multitude of data points and data feeds has created a lack of uniformity. Again, this is another area augmented analytics can tackle by offering a platform capable of ingesting and aggregating data from disparate sources and then automatically extracting insights which creates a consistent way of measuring and reporting on marketing performance and helps uncover new opportunities.

A good example of the commercial value of augmented analytics in action is enabling media agencies to boost client yield optimisation. For inventory that’s perishable, not selling it, means lost potential and dead product. If you sell say, a third of it directly and the rest programmatically, you may still end up with some of it unsold. A better way might be to sell it cheaply. The yield challenge is to price the inventory optimally to maximise the value of the impressions. To do this, you need an overview of what is happening across all vendors, channels and partners. Avora offers an overview of agency data in real- time, helping agencies to optimise the yield for their clients.

Brands may be tempted to go directly to media owners, reasoning that they can cut out the expense of an intermediary. To combat this, agencies must show their skills as both curators and consultants of the media planning and buying process. The future lies in becoming respected, value-adding stewards of clients’ data – or risk becoming a casualty of digitisation.


Written by Manjit Johal, Chief Technical Officer of augmented analytics specialist, Avora.


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