Motive: Agency integration trends
by Jacqui Greeff (@JacquiGreeff1) Here are some insights into the findings of the Answered Redzone industry trends research that was conducted last year. The research was undertaken to ascertain the marketing and communication industries’ view on integration of communication services within advertising agencies.
The Redzone Industry Trends Study
Date: Q4 2015
Sponsor: The Redzone
Interview method: Qualitative/in-depth interviews and quantitative/online
Sampling: 6 qual + 174 marketing, communication and media management
To be read in conjunction with the pdf Answered Reporting – RedZone Industry Trends for PRINT 29 Oct
Context for change
Agency, marketing and media management generally share an understanding of the following as noteworthy trends across their combined industries:
- Digital as mainstream, moving to communication centre-stage
- Social media dominance
- Big data and data analytics
However, opinion upon the notable trend status of communication-services integrating is divided. Most agency managers see this as significant, whereas their marketing-management counterparts are less inclined to do so.
Factors impacting the marketing and communication industries
Industry management expects greatest impact during 2016 from general economic conditions and the growing demand for marketing investment return accountability. Other factors expected to have high impact, by approximately four in every 10 respondents, include BBBEE, cheaper production techniques and the recognition of creative value in business.
The current model of agency management is not felt to have longevity by over half of these industry-active participants. This is likely to be linked to the strong sense that the incumbent agency-management model is ill-suited to solving the business problems being experienced by business owners.
Industry response to a changing and challenging business environment
The latter finding is particularly noteworthy, considering that the best response to the volatile environment is considered to be business-solution provision by agencies. Almost half also indicates that diversifying agency skills and capabilities is an appropriate route to industry survival. On both counts, a greater proportion of agency management than client management perceive this to be happening. That is, agencies believe they are adapting appropriately more so than clients.
Clients are more-inclined than agencies to specifically mention digital leadership as a relevant development objective. Agency leaders are significantly more likely than clients to itemise protection of agency culture as a relevant means of dealing with change.
The variance between agency and marketer perceptions is important to note as it indicates potential for conflict in developing models in coming months.
There is slightly more consensus in industry observation of models that have not been successful, most specifically the route of reducing permanent employees in favour of freelancers. Agency and media management have also proved more critical than clients of attempts to centralise potentially shared facilities.
Integration as a response to evolving needs
The impetus to create an integrated-communications offering is most strongly motivated by the expected benefits of consistent brand delivery to market, addition of real value to client business and improved ROMI, followed by measurability of results and holistic treatment of customer engagement.
An integrated agency is primarily and most consistently understood to be one that is strategically led and solution-based, with measurable results.
While two-thirds of the agency managers surveyed expect an integrated agency to include all disciplines physically working together in the same space, clients don’t necessarily take this to be the indication of integration. A single account management interface is also not strictly an expectation of integration.
Integration benefits and detractors
Almost all participating managers acknowledge some benefit to integrating communication services. The dominant benefit perceived by the industry as a whole is consistency of market messaging and consumer experience of a brand. Agency and marketing management also emphasise the expected strategic value of integration. Almost half the marketers and media surveyed expect that integration will deliver the benefit of measurable results. Approximately one-third of these industry professionals refer to the cohesiveness of communication solutions as in integration benefit.
Despite these largely positive expectations, there is also notable caution evident, with eight in 10 of the sample raising potential disadvantages of integrating services. The main concerns relate to unequal skill sets and lack of true expertise in each discipline. One-third of agency and media management nominate inappropriate application of a single strategy as a potential detractor. Clients voice greater caution than agencies about the danger of mediocrity as a result of integration.
Integration into the future
Nonetheless, these stakeholders are aligned upon the opinion that integration of communication services is something to strive for, that it is here to stay and highly likely to succeed, despite the challenges. Eighty-nine percent believe that an integrated campaign is likely to be a better campaign. This may well provide the impetus to overcome the client-side heritage systems and processes, which over half the sample perceive as current barriers to integration.
The unfolding journey to integration is not starting from a zero base, as some believe it has already been achieved, even if only in part. Agency leaders are more inclined than clients to consider that this goal has already been reached.
Jacqui Greeff (@JacquiGreeff1) is managing director and project lead of Answered. She has over 25 years’ experience in research practice and management in the communication industry, having consulting across multiple sectors. She holds an executive MBA, lectures on marketing and customer behaviour at postgraduate level, and places emphasis on improved application of insight into current business models and brand planning.
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.
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