In this three-part series of articles, Kathleen Jordan, Associate Director at Source One Management Services takes a look at the complex digital agency landscape and provides insight on the process of agency sourcing: considerations when sourcing, vast digital agency options, and the need for bridging the gap between marketing and procurement departments. Kathleen Jordan is a strategic sourcing subject matter expert with a wide range of experience in the marketing category who works closely with marketing professionals and helps alleviate challenges encountered when overseeing agency relationships.
In Part I of this series we reviewed common considerations for sourcing digital agencies. Continuing on, today we take a look at the vast types of digital agency options and what they mean for a company’s sourcing strategy.
The Many Agencies
One of the most challenging phases during an agency search is building the initial list of agency candidates and ensuring the list meets the basic criteria. Some vetting will be required through an RFI process or onsite capabilities presentations prior to the RFP phase and pitches. When a marketing professional casts a wide net into the digital agency pool, they will find a combination of large full-service digital agencies and smaller, more specialized agencies.
There are agencies that define themselves as primarily social media agencies, whereas other shops are comprised of digital developers — agencies that develop mobile apps, websites, etc. Other agencies are focused on search engine marketing — the leading required service and foundation of digital marketing, in which SEO and paid search campaigns are managed. There are also suppliers that offer analytic services where consultants study the results of a digital campaign and advise where tweaks should be made, tracking against key performance indicators and indicating ROI results. The list goes on to capture various other forms of digital marketing services such as the full-service model, website design and user experience, display advertising, e-mail campaign management, CRM platforms, etc. Todd Wasserman of Mashable wrote an article calling out a few additional agencies on the rise, including:
- Viral video factories
- Agencies specializing in the development of GIFs, referred to as “the animated billboard for the digital age”
- Agencies focused on creating digital IDs for products; for example, ask yourself: What if my washing machine could recommend a trusted local service agent to perform maintenance or address issues when needed? These agencies are looking to make physical things smart, allowing a product to have its own digital profile.
Referring to the ever-changing digital marketing world, Wasserman writes, “this state of flux has swung open the doors for entrepreneurs, usual refugees from big agencies looking to capitalize on new opportunities while their counterparts are riding the TV gravy train to the last stop“. Overall, the digital landscape is continuously shifting, and some brands are already beginning to think about post-digital. Digital Marketing Depot’s whitepaper also notes that “dozens of specialty agencies have launched over the past five years” and the number continues to grow. In addition to Wasserman’s remarks about this trend, Digital Marketing Depot believes that the rise in specialty agencies was “prompted by the mid-market opportunity created by holding company agencies with huge minimum spends, and wireless technologies that have made it easier to start up small businesses“.
There is no right or wrong way to allocate your digital requirements across an agency network. The optimal model will depend on a company’s overarching marketing strategy and internal resources. A marketer may find that their current creative agency that supports their traditional advertising tactics is best suited to handle their digital channels as well. After all, the account management structure already exists and price breaks may be applied if the scope increases.
Regardless of the digital requirement that needs to be fulfilled, marketing professionals should keep in mind that their procurement counterparts can serve as decision support to help identify the agencies best suited to meet the advertiser’s needs. In the final part of this blog series, we’ll explore the need to bridge the gap between marketing and procurement.