February 19, 2016
The traditional agency structure, process, and payment models are changing because marketing, communications, and people themselves are changing. It will be years before the dust settles and sustainable agency models can be studied and replicated. For now, agencies have to examine the forces that are driving them to change before they can determine what new model to adopt.
- Big Data and Business Intelligence
Agency clients are protective of the data they use to develop valuable consumer insights. Rather than share this data with agencies, many have transitioned marketing strategies in-house, to personnel that can analyze and act upon data. But right now we’re in a transition phase where the skills that are required to act strategically aren’t organizational strengths of technically-oriented clients or creatively-staffed agencies. The final creative product will eventually be much more effective with a business model organized around data sharing.
Data isn’t just useful for clients to understand consumers; it’s also used by consumers to evaluate and compare brands and products. Both clients and agencies can collaborate to deliver more information to digitally-enabled consumers who make increasingly right-brained purchasing decisions.
- The Client-Customer Relationship
What makes a brand valuable today is radically different than it was just ten years ago. Image is no longer everything; today building value is about building relationships. Traditional agencies are ill-equipped to foster meaningful real-time dialogue because their processes are slow. Understanding consumer preferences, developing ad campaigns, buying media, and the assembly line of project management are all time consuming. Smaller boutique agencies and similar in-house client setups can be nimble, owning the customer relationship and harnessing social tools to engage customers, when and where they are talking.
- Becoming Consistently Relevant
With so much competition for talent, and so many more roles needed for different projects, many agencies cannot provide solutions to today’s marketing problems. Sometimes the solution is a matter of understanding the client’s capabilities (including IT and data analysis) and collaborating. Sometimes it’s agile staffing— being able to get talent on demand for short-term assignments and projects. And other times, it’s a matter of being able to harness the creative wisdom of industry veterans without making long-term commitments.
At Freeman Leonard, we work with you to solve the human resource issues that are inherent in each of these challenges, through our innovative talent solutions. Whatever the most sustainable agency business models look like in ten years, we can increase your odds of being there and being relevant when the dust settles.
February 16, 2016
Scalability and Sustainable Growth are Business Objectives #1 and #2 for 2016
Advertising agencies across the US employed 199,100 people in October. According to Ad Age Datacenter’s analysis of jobs data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s the highest level since May 2001.
I suspect we have surpassed 200,000 by now.
Digital services account for the growth—40% of 2014 revenue and rapidly climbing as the industry model is being completely revolutionized. With this growth comes a requirement to invest more in professional development to update and overhaul employee skill sets, making the effective cost per employee substantially higher than what most agency business models allow.
Even if we can afford the investment, the payoff is uncertain. Freshly trained employees are ripe for poaching, and eager to test the market. The agency executives we work with have to balance this—along with the risk of having to quickly downsize should the economy stagnate—against the need to continue developing cutting edge digital skill sets.
To our clients, we recommend
- Diversifying employee investments by continuing to educate the most talented and productive employees. In evaluations, let them know that they are valued by encouraging and funding professional development.
- Evaluating which types of employees are most and least adaptive to change (creative people are usually among the most adaptive).
- Understand which types of employees are defecting at the highest rates. Find out what they are looking for in an agency, and what other industries are attracting them.
- Avoid bidding wars for the bottom 30% as they present competing offers.
- Gradually replace employees with more scalable, more specialized talent on an as-needed basis.
Automated, inbound, content, mobile, multimedia, and social media marketing, as well as programmatic media buying are radically changing what works. As the digital age finds its footing, the skill sets you need will begin to crystallize. The dot-com crash, which brought us down from record employment levels taught us a few lessons. One is the need to carefully calibrate staffing to keep employee and training costs at a sustainable percentage of revenues.
One way to do this is to partner with a creative staffing agency with a proven model for meeting your needs. Freeman Leonard’s Modeled On-Demand Agency (“MODA” for short) cost-effectively connects CMOs with A-team talent in a customized, scalable, agency platform. Talk with us to learn more about MODA and how it can help you meet your most critical business objectives in 2016.
February 12, 2016
The Darwinian digital world has its own form of natural selection to thin the herd of businesses that don’t cater to consumers. More than ever, the emerging leaders in every sector of the economy will be businesses that continually adapt to rapid changes in technology-driven consumer behavior.
In just a decade, your agency or business may have transitioned from focusing on mass-target advertising, to using data to deliver segmented communications, to socially engaging with consumers on their terms. You’ve gone from talking at, to speaking with, to having a relationship with customers.
Think they’re satisfied yet? Of course not! It’s 2016 and digitally enabled consumers’ expectations are ramping up. Here’s what’s expected of us:
- Marketing Automation
As the consumer buying process becomes more complex, a marketing automation platform is necessary to manage all marketing content, track customer lifecycles, segment contacts, match content to sales opportunities, and schedule synchronized communications through many channels. As you develop a more robust automation strategy, Freeman Leonard can provide the talent you need to address the gaps in your system.
- Mobile Marketing
A combination of trends comprise what we are categorizing as mobile marketing, including mobile site optimization, location-based technology, digital assistant marketing, and even wearables (smartwatches) and the internet of things (loT). Mobile devices now account for 51% of time spent with digital media. Google has responded by releasing the “Mobilegeddon” algorithm in 2015 to phase out sites that aren’t optimized for mobile. If they’re putting their chips on mobile over desktop traffic, you should be too.
- Content Development
The Content Marketing Institute reports that 86% of B2B organizations have a content marketing strategy. 80% of business decision-makers prefer information in a series of communications, and 90% of consumers find customized content useful. Consumers are increasingly information-enabled, with a buying process that involves more inputs into each purchasing decision. Their loyalty depends on relationship building and education. Good thing you have a marketing automation system in place; now develop the content to make it work.
As you optimize your site for mobile and fill it with content, you will achieve the fourth most important objective in this list. SEO depends on several factors in addition to content. These factors include increasing site “dwell time” and activity, as well as having the right alt tags, keywords, and relevance to match the increasingly complex search queries of your best prospects. Succeeding in your SEO objective can provide you with the highest ROI of any of your marketing efforts.
- Social Media
Social media continues to dominate in 2016, with a focus on engagement over self-promotion. Google is finally offering embedded videos in search, rather than just text-based ads, providing advertisers another incentive to develop sticky video content, and another way to engage consumers at the point of interest. Facebook is increasingly becoming relied upon as a platform for customer problem resolution and for transparency when issues arise. Interest and trust can be won or lost on social media, with immediate and drastic consequences.
Now is an excellent time to determine if you have the human resources to meet the digital challenges of the year ahead. Talk with Freeman Leonard about your needs, and learn about how our cutting edge talent solutions, like the Modeled On-Demand Agency (MODA) can meet your staffing needs.
February 9, 2016
2016 will be a watershed year in advertising. Trends that have been developing in silos will mature and spill over from one compartment to another, finally sinking some long-held convictions about what works in advertising. The first to call for a life preserver will be TV commercials…
- Digital Ad Spending Will Surpass TV
TV ad spending has been flat for several years, with generally declining ROI, while digital advertising spending has steadily risen. According to a new forecast from Magna Global, digital ad spending in the U.S. will finally surpass TV as the biggest media category in 2016—a year earlier than many expected. The forecast is for $66 billion in revenue. Those shifting dollars will now be spent heavily on social and video formats, as well as search ads.
- Advertising Will Focus More on Storytelling
Social media has been the primary catalyst for changing how people discover and engage with brands. As Gen Y and Millennial buying power increases, advertising strategy will evolve from selling to connecting. Social platforms will be an increasing part of the media mix, but storytelling will have an expanding role in traditional tv, radio, and print advertising.
Instead of asking why consumers should buy their products, advertisers will ask what story will intrigue and charm more consumers to engage with their brands. Once successful, the next phase will be about encouraging fandom and internet evangelism. The storytelling won’t be all about words either; Instagram and Pinterest, as well as products designed by companies like Ikea and Apple have cultivated a greater appreciation for the visual aspects of advertising.
- Outdoor Will Be One of the Most Cost-Effective Forms of Advertising
In 2016, consumers will become more vigilant about what they perceive as invasive forms of advertising. Online, new applications to prevent and block annoying digital ads will become increasingly popular for mobile and desktop use. Worse yet, as advertisers battle back against these challenges, consumers can have the final say with a backlash through social media.
There’s one form of advertising that remains unzappable (though the sun visor industry may be working on a solution), and that is outdoor advertising. Billboards will remain well-received, as long as the copy and design captivates drivers’ attention without causing rubbernecking.
Is your agency or business staffing plan agile enough to keep pace with rapid developments in our industry? Talk with Freeman Leonard about how our flexible talent solutions, like the Modeled On-Demand Agency (MODA™) and Imagine Nation™ can prepare you for the wild ride ahead.