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Digital/Data Shift Has Marketers Looking Beyond Ad/Media Agencies—and Seeking New Partners to Better Exploit Data and Digital

digitaldata-sqMarketers are looking beyond traditional models for domain experts to drive marketing performance and handle exploding data, digital migration, channel fragmentation and a more diverse, multi-cultural consumer base. A new strategic report from the CMO Council and Ebiquity, entitled The Path Forward: Marketing’s Outlook Into The Digital Future, suggests that as budgets increase to fund digital marketing campaigns and more personalized customer engagement, marketers now need additional expertise in data analytics, content creation and channel proliferation to improve ROI.

According to research from a CMO Council survey of 276 marketers in the first half of the year, there’s a new focus on finding high-performance marketing partners with specialized knowledge and business acumen. An overwhelming 83 percent of clients surveyed are looking for unique skill sets and specialized capabilities not found in most ad agencies or media buying firms.

When asked to identify who marketers consider to be part of their marketing performance partner group, few (if any) traditional holding companies, advertising firms or media agencies made the list. Marketers are instead looking more to solution providers (once only seen as sources to enable technology and automation platforms) as their go-to sources for performance improvements and solution partners to tackle the biggest challenges facing marketing today.

When it comes to the marketing organization’s ability to address critical marketing challenges in 2015, survey respondents gave negative reviews in three essential areas. These included:

  • Managing the data explosion (only 30 percent said they are doing this well or very well)
  • Analyzing data to create personalized experiences (just 29 percent said they are doing this well or very well)
  • Overcoming financial restraint and demonstrating ROI (less than 40 percent said they are doing this well or very well)

While 60 percent of survey respondents are spending more than $10 million annually on media buys, only 5 percent of participants say they are much more confident in their media or agency partner’s performance. In fact, marketers are looking to apply far more stringent and taxing ROI thresholds on their media and agency partners to maximize return. One marketing leader shared that as digital evolves, they must ensure that return on investment and return on advertising investment are held to higher standards.

“Our agencies and partners are absolutely different than they were even one year ago,” said one marketing leader, according to the report. “We have tripled our digital budgets compared to two years ago, so we are working to protect that. Our greatest areas of investment today are actually going toward building our digital infrastructure and our talent, so the agencies and partners we have now must be different as we look to address things like data and shopper behaviors.”

“What this brings to the surface is an even more heightened need to get the highest levels of performance and output—not just from the marketing organization, but also from the external agencies and marketing performance partners employed by the organization,” said Liz Miller, senior vice president of marketing for the CMO Council, in a news release. “CMOs are frustrated by a lack of visibility into partner performance and are questioning everything from budgets to the realities of click fraud and paybacks.”

“Marketing is at a crossroads, and now is the time for agency partners to work even harder to meet the expectation for performance and creativity,” said Nick Manning, chief strategy officer for marketing analytics firm Ebiquity, in the release. “This has created an interesting phenomenon of global marketers placing their old agency accounts up for review—calling everything from performance to contract structure into question. Marketers recognize that the world has changed, and they’re looking for partners who can unlock the new communications landscape in all its manifestations while being responsible, professional business partners. Now is the time for agency partners to give marketers exactly what they want…and what the customer needs.”

The data provided in the paper is the result of a 25-question poll of senior marketing leaders in the first half of 2015. Of the 276 marketers taking part in the study, 54 percent hail from organizations with more than $1 billion (USD) in revenue, with 47 percent holding CMO, senior vice president of marketing or head of marketing titles within their organizations. Download the complete report here.

Source: PR Newswire; edited by Richard Carufel

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