Whatever our role – client or agency-side – we are tasked every day with delivering value and making an impact to the bottom line.
The old way of delivering creative marketing solutions revolved around setting up teams and services to tick the right boxes under the category of ‘things being done that others do’.
Often this involved long timelines and cycles, complete with large teams and comparatively large budgets. Or smaller ‘boutique’ teams with even larger budgets for the ‘platinum’ service.
And there was good here. Creativity was valued and afforded a central role. Clients understood that it takes deep creative thinking to differentiate your business in the marketplace. To make customers understand or care what makes your product or company different. To inject your brand with a distinct identity, and to execute it with a consistency of application and purpose that will give it roots and resonance.
Client roles have changed. Have agencies adapted with them?
Marketing and brand departments are smaller, and people are tasked with delivering more – often with less time. The budgets for marketing and advertising are not what they once were. The Cadillac is often now a Smart Car.
Directors and marketing managers need to spend less, and they must show clear evidence of effectiveness for their investment.
This has resulted in a shift towards metrics-oriented digital marketing, which has resulted in a “Wild West” of SEO/SEM, social media profiles and blog entities who offer to tick the boxes in the new world version of ‘things being done.’
What is missing from client/agency marketing?
The missing element is the level of strategy around brand and creativity that was the hallmark of the old world. Without a full end-to-end vision of how everything connects, centred on creative innovation that aligns with business objectives, it becomes a world of sporadic and fragmented efforts across a variety of platforms and applications.
Some might argue that the old Mad Men world of ‘big ideas’ died because of its own grandiosity and pretense – now being seen through a different lens. And, of course, because of budgets.
Some would argue that the new digital world has no soul… that it is too metrics focused – that big-picture creative and communications strategy is undervalued.
I would argue that the best of both worlds can still be had.
I have often heard on the client side, there exists ongoing frustration with the way that creative and marketing services are delivered by big box creative vendors. Perhaps it can be a sense of entitlement on the part of the agency. They might be B, C or D teams, and their level of understanding, experience or personal investment cannot be the same as the A team that sold the service. The culture and processes are rooted in a way of thinking that reflects the agency’s worldview more than the customer’s.
The effect can be disastrous.
Client-side product and marketing managers can often feel they are not heard, or understood. When issues or gaps in strategy are identified, there is often no effort to guide the client in the resolution of those gaps.
Entitlement is truly the kiss of death.
Pageantry in articulation and presentation will no longer pass for value if it cannot be shown to deliver results. A well rehearsed PowerPoint presentation is not value on its own.
All the moving parts of a well-designed end-to-end digital marketing initiative, working together, can and should be rooted in vigorous analysis against overall business and brand objectives. When smoke and mirrors are replaced by empirical data – purpose, soul and deep thinking should still be evident.
Perhaps amidst the shifting sands of the current landscape there lies an opportunity here – to redefine how we drive the bottom line without sacrificing our higher aspirations around authenticity and creativity.
Add a dash of humility to the mix, and you’ll find you just might enjoy the ride.