The full service fudge - Deciphering agency capabilities

7 July 2023
Shai Luft.

Shai Luft Co-Founder & COO Bench Media

Many independent creative agencies claim to be full service and to offer a broad media capability. In fact, what many offer is a “no-frills media offer” with a large reliance on Google and Meta. This means that not only is it a bit of a fudge to describe the offer as full service- as it’s not- but most importantly it means the agency is missing out on what should be a complementary core discipline which will enhance its strategic and creative offering.

One of the primary drawbacks of relying solely on Google and Meta is the limited scope it offers. While these platforms are undoubtedly powerful and influential, a well-rounded media strategy should go beyond them. By largely depending on these tech giants, agencies miss out on the opportunity to tap into other channels and the many emerging platforms such as Spotify, Reddit, TikTok, The Trade Desk and Amazon as well as execution capabilities across emerging channels such as DOOH, Native and PTV. By diversifying their media capabilities, independent creative agencies can provide clients with a more holistic approach, access a more refined range of target audiences and ultimately deliver better outcomes.\

In addition to the media capabilities and platforms, it’s important to look into the agency's data partnerships. Does it have a multitude of data partnerships it can tap into so that they can enhance their media buying? Are they vendor agnostic on both the data side and the media side? Do they have data partnerships that allow them to access niche high performing audiences bespoke to each advertiser?

Moreover, an overreliance on Google and Meta can lead to a lack of differentiation among agencies. If most agencies are utilising the same platforms and targeting the same audiences, it becomes increasingly challenging to stand out from the competition. This homogeneity can limit creative possibilities and hinder the development of unique and innovative campaigns. Ultimately the brands are the ones that suffer due to the need of the agency to simplify its workflow and cost base. By incorporating additional media & data capabilities into their repertoire, independent agencies can offer clients fresh perspectives and unlock new avenues for brands to gain a competitive edge.

One of the things I have observed in the last 25 years working as a marketer on both the agency and brand sides is that many marketers are time-poor and therefore tend to favour the easy route when it comes to managing agency relationships. The majority of marketers choose convenience over deep expertise and they prefer to have a generalist rather than a specialist with deep media capabilities. While it can be inconvenient to work with a number of specialists in different areas and to coordinate between them, the reality is that too often full service agencies lack deep expertise, proprietary technology and skilled specialists so whatever time is saved for convenience can be lost two-fold on results. Unfortunately, marketers don’t always ask the right questions around what tech is being used, where does the data come from or who is implementing it which only serves to provide the advertiser with mediocre outcomes.

For digital marketing managers and media agency managers, it is essential to critically evaluate the claims of any agency before committing to a partnership. Look beyond the surface-level assertions of being "full service" and inquire about the agency's media capabilities and expertise. This is extra important when engaging an independent creative agency that usually relies on a narrower skill base. Ask for examples of campaigns executed beyond Meta and Google and how they have effectively integrated media planning & data into their strategic processes.

Ultimately, a true full-service agency should demonstrate versatility, offering clients a comprehensive suite of services that extends far beyond the obvious platforms. By diversifying their media capabilities, these agencies can provide clients with a more robust and impactful marketing strategy. This can be done by extending their partnerships beyond the obvious duo of Google and Meta directly or partnering up with a specialist & agnostic partner that has sophisticated integrations and know-how in place that the independent agency can leverage off and widen their client offering. A good partner in this space should be able to educate the agency team on how to utilise new and emerging platforms, how to leverage data to improve targeting and most importantly it means the independent agency team can focus on media planning & strategy while delivering the best outcomes for their clients.

Now that we have truly entered the age of digital disruption, It is imperative for digital marketing managers to be discerning in their selection process and seek out agencies that possess the true essence of being full service. Only then can they expect to unlock the full potential of their marketing efforts and achieve exceptional results in today's dynamic landscape.

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