And just like that, uncertainty and change are the new norm. As we enter 2017, business leaders face a market scenario poised to combust as political, social, and economic forces chafe against one another.
What to do?
Marketers and agencies must be prepared to adapt -- quickly. Agencies in particular should be ready to push past business as usual and build in-house capabilities that anticipate changing client pressures and needs.
Here's how to gear up.
Think like a startup
An increasing number of brands are pulling everything from strategy to production to measurement -- core agency capabilities -- in house.
How can agencies compete?
They can compete by thinking and operating like members of the client team. Be open to co-creation, even if it means the client is jumping in the Google doc to rewrite copy. Invite the brand and creative teams to bounce ideas off one another in real time. Speed up your process so the client doesn't have to wait three weeks in between reviews. Evaluate your recruiting strategy and consider hiring candidates who have skills across several areas. Do what you can to unburden the client from heavy process while still maintaining enough process. It's messy, but clients want to be involved, and a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't cut it anymore.
Own the media strategy
A campaign is only as good as its media strategy and buy. The unfortunate reality is that one agency develops the campaign while a different agency devises the media strategy largely responsible for the success of said campaign. Over the last few years, brands have pushed for maximum media efficiency across social, digital, online video, and above-the-line properties. There are simply more places for advertising to show up in, but marketing budgets aren't keeping pace with the profusion of channels.
At the same time, advertising technology has become more sophisticated. Faced with fewer dollars, media agencies rely more on programmatic purchasing than plans developed by skilled, big-picture strategists. After all, they are compensated with a percentage of a brand's media spend -- it's in their interest to protect resources.
This model is broken. Creative agencies, whose job it is to know their clients' consumers best, who already do the heavy lifting on consumer insights to inform campaigns, are well positioned to own the media strategy as well. Ramping up on this capability will ease client frustration and give the work a better shot at achieving the goals that warranted a campaign in the first place. In an evolved model, creative agencies develop media plans and hand them off to media partners, who can execute the spend and put the plan in place.
Push for data transparency
In the maze-like new media landscape, a brand ends up with multiple performance reports from their slew of agencies, each measuring a different component of a campaign. Picture being on the receiving end of these reports and trying to puzzle out a comprehensive view that shows true performance. And having to turn that around for your boss.
Now imagine if creative, media, event, and PR agencies teamed up to produce a single cohesive campaign report showing which tactics worked well and how the results stack up overall. Brands crave data transparency across all advertising channels, and it's up to agencies to bare the results and provide an accurate measure of success. The payoff? All parties gain a better understanding of what resonates with the target consumer.
Speed up video production
More and more clients are emphasizing video and are focusing on fewer, more involved media projects as opposed to a regular flow of social posts. What's behind the shift?
- Gen Z and Millennials, of course. They make up half the U.S. population and their preference for video is real. And they go for all kinds of video, cozying up to everything from product demos to consumer testimonials to episodic or docu-style storytelling.
- Our brains are wired for video: we are 90 percent more likely to remember messages we watch than those we read.
- Another key driver is the decline of organic social content. With new platform algorithms in place to serve up more content from users' friends, the reach of content without paid support is greatly diminished.
The challenge is to pull off high-quality video without sinking so much time and money into production. Traditional production is incredibly expensive and doesn't meet clients' quick-turn needs. Cracking the code of rapid video creation will be a gamechanger. That might mean hiring staff cinematographers who can concept, shoot, and edit -- who aren't easy to find. Start looking now.
Create experiences worth sharing
The role of events in social media is flipping. For the past decade, brands used social to promote and drive traffic to events. Now, it's the opposite. Brands see that great experiences -- whether in real life or online -- are the ones consumers want to share. Arm your audience with social currency by giving them something they can't get on their own, whether it's a timely Snapchat filter, exclusive access, or direct communication with a celebrity.
Remember, a consumer's most valued brand is her/his own, so give each of them a moment, a tool, or an exclusive capture that will burnish their identity and rack up shares and likes. Such activity can be a powerful megaphone for brands -- and one of the few ways organic posts can still achieve considerable reach.