Agencies, It's Time to Own Multichannel Marketing

Creating a Channel Management Division Is a Good Start for Agencies

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The number of channels brands can use to reach consumers has exploded in the past decade, and agencies have raced to catch up, fighting to stay proficient as a slew of leaner specialty shops fight for a piece of the pie.

This fragmentation of content consumption is a tipping point for agencies. They can either keep chugging along, trying to keep up with multichannel marketing, or they can wrap their arms around the explosion of channels and creative assets and own all of their clients' content across the growing media landscape. To do that, they're going to need to invest in entirely new divisions focused solely on managing multi-channel marketing.

Marketing will only get more fragmented in the coming years as consumers continue migrating away from the desktop and toward smartphones, tablets and wearables. Brands have to develop creative assets for these new devices, as well as expanding forms of online and offline content, including social, video, addressable TV and digital out-of-home, not to mention traditional TV and print.

Brands need a caretaker for all of this creative content. Today, there is no clear owner; sometimes it's the brand's internal marketing department, sometimes it's an agency, and sometimes the assets are spread out across multiple agencies, creating conflicts and confusion.

This creates a huge opportunity for agencies to own this capability and to build value for their clients. A new division focused on channel management and strategy would not focus on the individual pieces, but rather on how the ads work together as a complete campaign. Staff would be tasked with managing the creative, monitoring the data and compiling the analytics and metrics to take back to the client.

This division would work alongside existing creative, technology, account management, media, strategy and planning departments. In an age where some see agencies as a dying model, this kind of service layer would breathe life back into the industry, helping advertisers manage a pain point that will only become more pronounced over the next half decade.

Adopting this strategy will require some new thinking from agencies, of course. Even though omni-channel messaging is growing, we're not likely to return to the days where one agency controls all of the advertising functions of a client. Now, agencies typically control only one small part of the client's business.

Adding a channel management layer would help agency staff work smarter. Agencies are full of extremely talented people who often waste their time figuring out who owns what and when it needs to be done. If one team managing all of the omni-channel assets could mitigate the time wasted, the other teams could do what they do best -- be creative and tell the brand's story.

This type of oversight would also allow the client to make a global change to creative very quickly. Rather than fighting through organizational red tape across multiple agencies, a client could make an update, with a directive that quickly reaches all of the relevant agencies involved in the plan.

There's also a huge opportunity here for new boutique agencies to launch and handle only this one task. Consider that -- an agency that does no creative or planning, but provides creative management, feedback, analytics and metrics. There's room to evolve beyond that, but a small shop focused on that competency could be massively successful right now.

Marketing will only grow more complicated and more fragmented, making channel management even more important with each new development. Brands need someone to look out for their creative and their multichannel assets -- the larger the brand, the greater the need. Yet agencies often remain stuck in the past, trying to tackle a growing number of formats without growing their teams. Brands need a controller, an arbiter of content, and they need it now. It's up to agencies to decide if they want to fill that void.

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