Digital marketing agencies have changed dramatically during my career. To grow and thrive in a changing environment the best agencies have -- in one way or another -- reinvented themselves every few years. Agencies innovate because what gets you to the top of the agency marketing landscape will not keep you there.
The changes happening now cannot be addressed with a single innovative product or process. As Taulbee Jackson, CEO of Raidious, shared with us, "It takes an entirely different set of human resources and skills than agencies and PR firms have in their toolbox." Agencies need a new team of personas to reach and engage digital audiences.
A different kind of change is coming
Traditionally, change for agency marketers was linked to emerging channels. Advances in technology shifted audiences from print to radio to television to digital, and as new channels emerged, agencies focused on evolving their relative expertise. Becoming an expert in independent digital channels such as search, social, display, and mobile helped agencies differentiate and win business. The result: agencies are accustomed and incented to think in terms of channels. That puts them at a disadvantage for adapting to audience behaviors.
One of the most significant shifts in audience behavior is that audiences today are less trusting of advertising messages and less likely to see them in general -- regardless of channel. It's a major behavioral shift that is threatening digital's broad reach.
This distrust and dislike of ads seems to be growing alongside growth in internet usage statistics. Nearly half of American adults own a smartphone, and the growth of tablets is not far behind. Having the internet in their pockets, Americans have become voracious consumers of audio, video, social media, and gaming content. In fact, 62 percent of American adults access news content on their mobile phones. Increasingly, people are choosing to pay for services that provide uninterrupted content. Times really are changing, and the prevalence of connected devices will continue to emphasize the importance of original branded content as a means of reaching the consumer.
Whether the goal is to stimulate awareness or capture demonstrated intent, agencies will add value by turning audience insights into successful content and distributing it. Surviving the disruption of advertising-supported content will require more than channel expertise or a new service line. It will require a completely different operational model, new technology infrastructure, and teams with new capabilities to deliver in the face of change.