2020: A new decade for agency and brand relationships

Jon Butler



The twenty-tens re-shaped the way agencies worked with brands, and the way brands wanted to work with agencies. As the world moved online, and into our pockets, brands were faced with a new era of consumers seeking immediacy, transparency and personalisation.

"Agencies evolved and the lines between specialist providers and integrated agencies started to blur, however, there was and is always one unifying attribute which ultimately drives success. The need to create content designed to engage at every step of the customer journey. Yes, there are exceptions with direct response and short-term campaigns on the rise in recent years but if you are to build brand loyalty and protect your margins, you need to build short term performance and lasting brand recognition to reap the most efficient long-term rewards."

Source: IPA Crisis in Creativity Report.

Laying the foundations with planning and strategy

There are so many motivating factors and differing stages of the journey. These driving customer needs must be understood to ensure the content created resonates with them throughout the decision-making process. Planning and strategy are the foundations to any successful campaign. They bring the creative process to life in the most meaningful way, ensuring effective targeting and channel planning are implemented.

Knowing your audience

In this ever-changing world we live in, the way brands need to connect with customers is changing too. From Baby Boomers, Millennials to Generation X, Y & Z and Generation Alpha, customers demand a highly personalised and genuine approach if they are going to connect with your brand over the competition.

There are so many differing motivating factors including convenience, scarcity, value, habit, safety, health & wellness, success, sense of purpose- the list goes on. Gaining the understanding of what is driving these customer needs is key, because when you do, the rest falls into place.

It’s a fragmented customer journey

There are multiple customer touch points, and consumers have never been so more empowered to search and seek out information to help them in their decision making. Add to this cross-device usage and unreliable attribution models, it means agencies need to be clear about placing the right content in the right place at the right time.

An agnostic approach to channel planning

With so many ways to get in front of your customer, ensuring you have an agency who can be channel agnostic is so important. Being able to optimise targeting and see the bigger picture is key and the integrated approach can achieve a more balanced overview.

Sometimes relying on cross-agency collaboration can have it problems. Agencies unfortunately do not always operate between themselves in a way which is beneficial to the brands who employ them to deliver engagement and performance. That is why working with an agency who can switch channels and has end to end production capabilities will be really important.

The modern agency for the twenty-twenties?

Agencies need to be as flexible as ever, to respond to the emerging consumer landscape, as well as the need for personalised approaches, at scale. The ability for the agency to flex under their own organisational structure is the key to delivering the best work. Where creativity flourishes, staff feel part of a family and where clients and culture combine.

They are not burdened with an outdated organisational structure and service offering which needs to be fed to ensure shareholder returns. They are a place where creativity flourishes because there isn’t an investor breathing down the management necks with insanely high utilisation, billable and recovery levels.

Where agencies can react quickly to change because they can. All to serve their customers and talented staff, not the stock-market or shareholders.

Creativity is central to content

Creativity is one of the last remaining competitive advantage that a brand can leverage.

It’s not just about creating content, it’s creating content in the context of the audience, the channels they consume, even down to the time of day. Agencies who put content at the heart of every stage of the customer journey will be the winners. Where their insight, content, creative and performance strategists work together seamlessly to create high impact campaigns that perform, at every stage of the journey.

Content production capabilities are essential to ensure brands are supported with immediacy, relevancy, and targeted connectivity. Agencies who have the capability to produce a wide range of content, from snack-able, live, user generated, interactives and games will create stand out for brands and achieve performance gains.

Ensuring the agency you work with has the capabilities to consistently connect with customers across paid, owned and earned will deliver an integrated campaign that drives the best performance.

The key ingredients

Single channel specialists are great; however, planning and strategy needs to be holistic and channel agnostic. Having an agency who gets this is so important and can save you time and money. Often lots of it!

So, the make-up of an agency or the vital ingredients you need to mix together through a combination of agencies or in-housing are;

  1. Planning and strategy —the foundations
  2. Creative content — connecting with customers along the journey
  3. Paid, owned and earned strategy — delivering performance
  4. Analysis and optimisation — learn and make better

The above ingredients can be made up of a selection of agencies or one and this will depend on a number of factors and particularly the role the CMO will take in this process. It’s mainly down to size of in-house team and resource allocation. The more moving parts and different agencies you employ the greater the risk of having a breakdown of communication and when channels work in silo’s, marketing spend is often fair less effective.  Effectively, you need to have the time to manage and ensure collaboration. 

Source – WARC Anatomy of Effectiveness, IPA From Integration to Orchestration

Whatever the route you choose, always ensure you challenge your agency to collaborate. Whether this is with your own in-house teams or with the other agencies you employ to work collaboratively with. KPI this activity with monthly cross-agency calls or ensure different in-house teams are on calls and ensure you are heavily involved in the collaboration process.

Ultimately everything is about relationships. Our approach to work as collaborative brand partners and have fun in what we do, is what has fuelled the growth of our business, attracted great brands, and brilliant people who have joined us from large network agencies and the best of the boutiques, to shape an agency fit for the future.

Great agency partnerships are about making your life easier and having amazing fun doing it.

Don’t stand for anything less.