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An Agency Mandate – Using Data to Answer the Call for Transparency

An Agency Mandate – Using Data to Answer the Call for Transparency iMedia Editors

Origami Logic CMO Steven Wastie provides perspective on what matters most for agencies in the new data-driven era, offering real-world examples of how immediate access to accurate, usable data can help agencies and brands collaborate more effectively. He also shares tips for how agencies can become more efficient data consumers and minimize the scramble when it comes to answering ad hoc client requests.

Many brand marketers and their agency partners are still faced with a big issue: having to deal with and rely on incomplete, stale data thanks to the scale, variety and complexity of today’s marketing ecosystem. In today’s marketing environment, reporting must be done during the campaign, not after. Waiting until a campaign finishes to assess its successes (and failures) threatens impact. Pushing performance measurement into the present tense allows campaigns to be adjusted mid-flight — improving results, today. While this is essential for all brand marketers, it is even more critical for agencies as they execute and seek constant improvement.

Often relying on time- and people-intensive, error-prone, manual workflows and super human excel skills, agencies now must pull data from a huge variety of sources in multiple incompatible formats. Yet, they still need to be able to quickly decipher what is working and what isn’t so they can improve clients’ campaign results and optimize budgets. Meanwhile, agencies are trying to strengthen trust and client relationships by providing more transparency, creating common performance measurement practices and quickly answering all reporting requests.

So how can agencies answer the call for real-time performance clarity and actionable insights while battling data volume and complexity, as well as reporting limitations?

Moving to the Present Tense

Today’s agencies are charged with figuring out what the future holds so they can help brands achieve better marketing results, yet all too often they are still looking backwards in the rearview mirror – making it impossible to accurately predict what might be just around the curve ahead.  Past-tense data informs gut feel rather than reliable, actionable insights.

For example, ICUC.Social has been able to improve digital marketing campaigns for its clients, including a Big Three auto manufacturer, by creating dashboards with the latest information. "By offering our auto manufacturing client immediate access to a detailed view of all current social, local and product reviews, we are able to work with the in-house team to better understand how product reviews on Google, Yelp, etc. change brand sentiment and drive additional social ROI,” noted Nicole van Zanten, Director, Marketing and Communications, ICUC.Social. 

Pushing performance measurement into the present tense is essential for agencies as they strive to improve results for clients, today. However, before we can fully address how to fix the current measurement challenges, let’s get to the root of what is creating them:

  • Agency resources are limited, yet clients’ reporting demands continue to escalate.
  • The number of marketing channels (yes, that includes programmatic) and concurrent campaigns continue to explode, adding velocity and complexity to campaign management while dramatically increasing the time required to manually monitor and report on performance.
  • Unprecedented levels of transparency are needed so brands and agencies can spend more time discussing ways to optimize marketing programs than questioning the efficacy of the data.

 Speaking a Common Measurement Language

With a recent surge of high-profile reporting assertions and increased industry scrutiny, it’s no surprise that today’s agencies face intensifying transparency expectations, mounting reporting demands and ongoing governance and audit requirements. We’ve heard from various agency sources that brand clients want more reports and are asking more detailed ad-hoc questions than ever before. This goes well beyond the issues outlined by the ANA and the 4A's.

Often relying on manual workflows and superhuman excel skills, agencies must pull data from a huge variety of sources in wildly incompatible formats. These efforts are time- and people-intensive, introducing the opportunity for miscommunication and manual errors that can inadvertently create confusion and mistrust.

Making things even harder, agencies are now routinely asked to go back and dig deeper – forced to spend countless hours running different analysis and data manipulations to get the answers their clients demand about past campaigns. Yet, they still need to be able to quickly decipher what is working and what isn’t so they can improve clients’ current campaign results. It is time to stop focusing on the past and start making the most of the present so agencies can get off the reporting hamster wheel and have more time and margin for innovation and optimization.

For agencies, clients’ push for additional reporting and explanations after the fact are creating a resource crunch for agencies, saying no to a client request is simply not an option in a very competitive market. Immediate access to accurate, usable data is the Rosetta Stone. And in a transparency-tense environment, that access should be for all parties involved so agencies and brands can collaborate more effectively.  Once agencies and their clients speak a common measurement language, they will be able to easily overcome previous reporting barriers.

Guidelines for Acing the Current Agency Mandate

To thrive, agencies still need to constantly add value and optimize marketing performance or risk losing clients. First, agencies and brand marketers need to agree on a common, more collaborative, measurement model – defining goals, metrics and performance in the same way.

With a common view of performance data from all channels and campaigns at their fingertips, agency professionals and their brand counterparts should be able to meet the following four transparency guidelines:

  • Answer ad-hoc reporting/ analysis requests immediately. Reduce the scramble and have immediate access to data to avoid ambiguity.
  • Prioritize precision. Understand that not all data is good data and ensure the accuracy of your performance data. In addition, minimize the margin of potential error and misinterpretation of the data by embracing automation and avoiding human missteps whenever possible.
  • Look beyond the data snapshot. When anomalies (good and bad) are detected in your campaign performance, dive into the details and explore the data to see the real cause/opportunity.
  1. Drive continuous value. Use the standardized view of campaign activities and results to adjust campaigns mid-flight, optimize current initiatives and rethink planned channels/tactics for future campaigns.

Providing Transparency While Driving Results

While data is undeniably the center of the post-digital marketing era, there is no standard approach to measuring performance data when helping brands navigate complex campaigns. It is time for agencies to tackle the transparency mandate and get back to their goal: to help clients do better marketing. Agencies must become an indispensable source of insights and ensure that performance measurement and reporting is a collaborative effort based on clearly defined, accurate and complete data. Facilitating transparency is the only way to rebuild the trust critical for a successful client relationship. The agencies that can rise to this will win their clients’ trust, loyalty … and continued budget.

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