Article

Kevin Adema
Kevin Adema 1 March 2017

Digital Marketing is sick. Is the agency to blame?

Digital marketing is sick. Very sick. Forrester’s work from over 11-million brand interactions prove that engagement levels continue to plummet. Forbes cites that only 32% of brands believe they have an effective digital strategy and it all points to brand campaigns falling short.

Digital marketing is sick. Very sick. Forrester’s work from over 11-million brand interactions prove that engagement levels continue to plummet, Coca-Cola has pulled back from digital, Forbes cites that only 32% of brands believe they have an effective digital strategy and it all points to brand campaigns falling short. Someone’s going to take the blame and it might just be the agency.

In the recent post of Don’t sell a product, sell a whole new way of thinking authored by Mark Boncheck – Founder of ‘Shift Thinking’, he speaks astutely to the fact that people [agencies] don’t see the problems [or can’t solve the problems] of today because “they are operating with a different model of the current state.”

In our earlier works, we show what this different state is and how marketing isn’t waking up because it’s shackled with 100-year old thinking. Boncheck probes on this reality and sets forth a series of questions to enable identifying the actual shift (so people will get it) and also identifying a sticking point based on associated symptoms.

The question of: “where do you feel people ‘don’t get it’? actually makes brands really uncomfortable: Brands have the data showing that indeed digital marketing is sick, but they’re also seeing that the next old-thinking, Agency-provided Band-Aid is keeping the wound from getting better.

Yes, the Digital Tipping Point is here and agencies will either become the solution or, they’ll be cut-out so the brand can heal.

Up until now, brands haven’t chosen the agency-surgery option but it’s coming unless agencies resoundingly respond to the very clear digital partner demands. Agencies must have:

  1. Great knowledge of the digital space
  2. Excellent strategic thinking (not tactical execution)
  3. Enable customer-first, engagement pull interactions

Add to this, three more wake-up calls:

Chris Daly, Chief Executive at the Chartered Insitute of Marketing said: “agencies have a crucial role to play in ‘challenging the status quo’ within organizations and bringing in expertise to take a fresh perspective.”

Claire Daniel’s work on “What brands want from their agencies”, cites: “due to the rise of in-house agencies, more marketers are looking for partners that focus on the strategic marketing level, rather than tactical execution.”

Bas van den Beld: “Agencies have to show they aren’t using old tactics and strategies but are on top of things”

But perhaps agencies are destined to be cut as the ask is going unanswered:

  • Sapient’s national survey shows that nearly 50% of brands switched agencies (or plan to in the next 12 months) looking for one with greater digital knowledge
  • Marketing Week shows that only 8% of brands are ‘very satisfied’ with their agency partners
  • Accenture Digital’s international study slams agency performance citing that only 6% of respondents see their agency as a solution to their digital brand needs

Back to Boncheck’s selling a whole new way of thinking: the “aha, I get it moment” is to see how digital is to marketing as gunpowder was to war.

When gunpowder entered the scenes, soldiers didn’t understand it or even know how to use it. Wars were still fought like they were before guns came around: line ‘em up and shoot (Bow and Arrow old-world thinking). Generals had to learn to think differently, they changed approaches and the ones that got it first, won the war.

When digital entered the scenes, agencies similarly didn’t understand it or even know how to use it. Campaigns are being run like they were before digital came around: lots of channels blasting a series of messages (100-year old, line ‘em up and shoot thinking). And just like with war, agencies have to learn to think differently, change approaches and yes, the ones who get it, will win the war.

Digital is talking with an audience not talking at an audience (TV, print, radio, etc.), Digital is about engagement: 2-way dialogue (context speaking and analytic listening), Digital is about customer-first, strategic thinking (not brand-first features blasted via social channels).

Boncheck simply points out that people won’t see it [and wont change] until their existing model has been disrupted. You’d think the millions of research dollars proving digital campaigns are failing plus the very clear demands from brands asking for strategy, digital and customer-first should have significantly disrupted any agency and forced them to change.

Hopefully agencies have the “aha” moment soon. Digital is not going away and agencies must take action. If they don’t, they’ll definitely take the blame.

 

References:

Kevin Adema
Kevin Adema

Hi Syamlal, I agree that agencies are not the sole source of the problem. However, as an ex-agency CEO, I can firmly say that all brands seek innovation and want their agency to push for new ways to bring value and results. With digital strategy demanding a "new way" of innovation and engagement, the agency must be at the forefront of the marketing craft. To help with this, feel free to watch our 1-hour seminar on how digital has changed marketing forever (and what agencies can do about it). You can get it free here: http://mastering-digital-strategy.teachable.com/p/strategy-fundamentals/?product_id=217561&coupon_code=RESOLUTION

Syamlal Pullamballi
Syamlal Pullamballi

I Agree with this thought. "Digital is talking with an audience not talking at an audience". But how can we blame it only on agencies, how many brands do you think understands that, Digital is a 2 Way communication platform, not a one way platform where you can't just get away with "Quotes" & "Did You Know" posts?

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