Code Worldwide

Why tech disrupted the Marketing Communications Development Lifecyle – and strategy has moved

15.02.2012
Matt McNeany

Matt McNeany

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

We have seen a rush of entrants into the space traditionally owned by marketing agencies – software vendors, IT consultants, big 5 consultants, production house – all have moved into the space once owned by ad men.  Scott Brinker has a great post on this here Why?  Well, technology change has disrupted much of the agency model of course.  But this disruption is going deeper than was previously clear – and the risk is that it commoditizes the role of the agency. The hugely simplified model for the traditional marketing communications lifecycle looked something like the following:

The agency worked on a strategy (analysed the audience and the brand, came up with a plan to bring the two together).  This was briefed to the agency’s creative team, and once it was signed off by the client, it would be produced and versioned, either by the agency or an outsourced production specialist.  Last, there would (probably) be some analysis of results, but it was questionable whether this would significantly implement the next campaign. Most importantly, marketing communications implementation was built around Campaigns.  On, then off.  Following a cyclical pattern. Tech has disrupted this in the following ways:

  • Strategy is inseparable from data; it is bigger than data but a Strategist who cannot see and manipulate and model data is just a guy making it up.
  • Marketing production & implementation is a technology job.  Brands are delivering their messages through software (whether that is a mobile, web or social app) which is increasingly more complex and needs hardcore tech skills, beyond the comfort zone of many agencies
  • Post campaign analysis does not happen at the end.  The data is available instantly and is inseparable from the strategy and the implementation.   Analysis is constant and used to refine and improve and optimize all the time
  • The Campaign model is being replaced by the Newsroom model.  Our communications are always on.  

 What does this mean for the agency and why are so many Frenemies moving into the space? Strategy is BIG.  Clients need help with not just brand strategy, customer segmentation and media planning- but critically with the strategic connections  between the customer touchpoints.  How is social influencing shopper marketing activity?  How can mobile monetize TV?  How do we implement and refine content across press, web and in-store simultaneously? These strategic questions are increasingly about technology.  How can we use APIs and other tech interactivity to make our brand messages useful, interesting and coherent through our customer’s complex journey? Put crudely, strategy questions are now as much about maths and about ‘plumbing’ as about the art of brand development.  And this is where the tech product vendors and consultants have got the creds.

 How do we implement and refine content across press, web and in-store simultaneously? These strategic questions are increasingly about technology.  How can we use APIs and other tech interactivity to make our brand messages useful, interesting and coherent through our customer’s complex journey? Put crudely, strategy questions are now as much about maths and about ‘plumbing’ as about the art of brand development.  And this is where the tech product vendors and consultants have got the creds. Creative is the new commodity.  Clients are building implementation machines.  The machines tell us when the creative has worn out or just plain isn’t working.  When that happens, go to

Clients are building implementation machines.  The machines tell us when the creative has worn out or just plain isn’t working.  When that happens, go to market and buy some new creative.  Test it; run more of the stuff that works.  Is that a model that needs a full creative agency?  Why invest in all the overhead when you can pitch out briefs for concepts and just drop the good ones into the machine?

Why agencies may not be totally screwed after all

There is a really great article from Marketing Agency Insider which discusses how SaaS vendors continue to extend their professional service offerings to the extent where they start to resemble marketing service businesses.  Why is this? Well the fundamental reason is something that ad agencies got a long time ago…client service.  “Yes”, says the client, “I want the awesome benefits your tech will bring, but I am really busy.  I need help managing this through my own organization to deliver the change you promise.”  Put bluntly, do it for me – I don’t have the capacity and you are the vendor.

So, never underestimate the importance of the Account Guys – no one has yet figured out how to automate them!