Recently, a study from the CMO Council on clients’ dissatisfaction with traditional agencies’ ability to rise to the digital occasion has received considerable attention. It is provocative – to wit, the study (among senior-level marketers) indicates that only 9% believe that traditional agencies are doing a good job of evolving and extending their service capabilities in the digital age. The other 91% of marketers believe the agencies aren’t evolving adequately.
But I see a different bigger picture in my daily activities, observations and interactions with clients and prospects. Yes, I have observed first-hand the laborious, kick-and-scream journey too many agencies have made to digital adequacy. Yet, I also have observed the amazing and progressive work plenty of other agencies have done and continue to do. So the 9% data point is to me surprising – and I think it obfuscates the real picture.
There are a number of traditional agencies that are excellent digital marketers, and just as many great traditional brands, but there are still too many marketers that do not know their digital asses from their digital elbows. They seek digital measurability and ROI, but their data is a mess. They proclaim the level of alignment required to be a strong digital marketing organization, but their ability to connect marketing to sales to technology runs from limited to non-existent. They cite a clear digital strategy and focus on results, but their expectations of their own teams and agencies are murky at best. They talk the digital talk, but their internal organizations are barely prepared to crawl let alone walk – or run, as they need to.
Sounds harsh, I know. But I believe the agency deficiencies surfaced via the study are equally reflective of marketers’ own deficiencies. I would further suggest that the dissatisfied marketers follow the old adage, “physician, heal thyself.”
Of course, I also believe that technology marketers have always been in the vanguard of digital marketing – far more advanced than their brethren in other industries. But the same tenets hold true.
Activated brands need to be super-active, super-proficient digital marketers. If your traditional agencies aren’t cutting it, there is no lack of traditional or integrated or digital or social or content agencies and experts that are. Find them, and get on with it. But before you do, be honest. Is your data any good? Is it actionable? Are your systems up to the task? Is your organization? Are you aligned with your CRO and CIO organizations as well as with the CEO, CFO and executive leadership team? Is everyone on the same page in terms of expectations? Are they the right expectations? Are they realistic?
The “digital age” the CMO study alludes to is close to 20 years old. There are great digital marketers (whose brands by any definition are “activated”) who are teaming with great agencies to do great things. Think IBM Smarter Planet and Ogilvy. Clearly, it’s time for agencies and marketers to get this right – because brand activation demands it.