Other agencies are also building up their search capabilities and integrating search into other areas.
“We recognized, going back to before 2009, that if we were going to be the most effective digital agency, that search—and specifically search engine optimization for b-to-b marketers—is probably the most important capability you need as an interactive agency to deliver effective solutions for clients,” said Reuben Hendell, CEO of MRM Worldwide, New York, the digital and relationship agency of McCann Worldgroup.
“In mid-2008, we did not have a leading, global-scale search practice. We dedicated 2009 toward the building of search-infused content, whether that's content on a branded site like Intel or [that] lives out in the social media world.” The agency created new processes to make sure that all of the content it develops for clients, from online videos to social media campaigns, are optimized for search.
Speaking at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's annual leadership conference in Carlsbad, Calif., last month, Bryan Wiener, CEO of interactive agency 360i, discussed the changing role of agencies in a world where users control so much information. “Individuals have more power over shaping brand perceptions than ever before,” he said. “They have near-perfect access to product and price information, and they can do it whenever and wherever they want. Total control over brand messaging is no longer possible.”
Agencies of the future, Wiener said, will need to use the Internet as a research tool to mine customer data, as well as capitalize on new platforms such as social media, search and mobile marketing.
“We need to embrace a strategy that engages customers where they're spending their time—in search and social. The offense starts with an ongoing conversation with the customer,” Wiener said. “Growing brand strength means a long-term commitment to relationship-building. Continuing the conversation must trump campaigns. Any agency that wants to add strategic value needs to be an expert in fostering relationships.”
Wiener said the mission of 360i has evolved from having specializations in search and social media to brand strategy and digital execution across the spectrum. “Digital agencies that service big brands will be extinct in their present form in the future,” he said. “What we do for brands is too core for the brand's future to remain at the periphery for too much longer.” M