Reach out for the opportunities on offer
The future opportunities for integrated agencies are there. Mike Maynard explains why, and how to reach them
In many ways, integrated agencies have never had it so good. The lines between traditional marketing silos are being blurred, and martech makes it easier to reach more people using more channels. The challenge for agencies is not lack of opportunity, it’s that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.
Perhaps the most important trend is the elimination of clearly-defined silos in marketing, which demands an integrated approach. This is most apparent for digital agencies, the darlings of the 2000s, who are now finding that digital is no longer a channel, but rather a part of almost all aspects of marketing. Doing digital is simply not enough any more, and these agencies are scrambling to build their skills across a wider range of marketing disciplines.
We see similar challenges for other specialist agencies: the increasing range of paid content means advertising agencies must expand their content development. PR agencies are having to pay for promotion, and dealing with social media can no longer be dealt with in isolation as the interaction on social is frequently driven by the business’ other marketing activities.
Audience habits are also changing as there is an ever-growing range of media competing for their attention. Today customers don’t care about channels, they care about content. While media brands are sometimes used as an indication of quality, marketer’s content is much more likely to be found by online searches. Ten years ago, most customers were loyal readers of particular publications, now a loyal magazine reader is an endangered rarity.
Marketers frequently recite the mantra that although content is very important, it’s distribution that’s king. This has driven the siloed approach within clients, where roles are based on distribution channels. With few channels dominating any audience’s attention, this is no longer effective.
The real opportunity for integrated agencies is that client-side marketing teams are structured in a way that reflects an out-of-date view of marketing. Just think about a PR manager who wants to create a video: they need to talk to the digital team to get it created, as well as the advertising and social team for promotion and distribution. The specialist silos in most clients simply slow down the marketing activities at a time when speed is increasingly important.
"Integrated agencies must not only develop functional skills in their teams; they also need to develop strategic and political skills"
Clients are very slow to build structures that make sense in the modern marketing world. This gives integrated agencies their biggest opportunity: to bridge the gaps between the artificial silos. Agencies that have built the political and strategic skills needed to smooth the divisions within clients, effectively de-siloing the marketing team perform an incredibly valuable function, enabling the client to achieve better results.
To be successful, integrated agencies must not only develop functional skills in their teams; they also need to develop strategic and political skills. The most successful agencies will invest heavily in training and education, building teams that let clients overcome the challenges of continual marketing change and outdated internal structures. Agencies that are prepared to sacrifice short-term profit to train and develop their team will become extremely valuable long-term partners for their clients.
This year's league table features a record-breaking 95 agencies, and is chock-full of analysis, commentary and interview with the agencies themselves and on the state of the market.