The Race for Eyeballs is Wreaking Havoc on Small Agencies

Three Things Agencies Can Do to Help Clients Target the Right Customers

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Lately there has been a lot of chatter about eyeballs. I'm not talking about creating a vertical in optometry. Rather, there is growing anxiety among advertisers over how to reach elusive customers and prospects.

It's all about getting messages in front of the right eyeballs. That's why What'sApp fetched $19 billion, and dozens of other platforms have sold for such eye-popping premiums. They have the eyeballs advertisers want.

And the task of finding the most desired pupils/retinas is more daunting than ever. Think about the dynamic that media planners used to face: They'd analyze a handful of media options and allocate funds to create a smart level of awareness for a brand. Piece of cake. Today, the choices of media are seemingly endless and everywhere. You can place ads on everything from print to pre-roll video, with the majority of dollars moving to mobile, as they should. That's where the eyeballs are.

But this is easier said than planned. Which mobile platforms do you place ads on? The social apps, such as Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat are wise choices, for the right demographics. Some mobile ad formats are intrusive and annoying, while others are seamlessly integrated into the content.

The race to be in front of as many eyeballs as possible is wreaking havoc on small and mid-size agencies. So what are agencies to do? Here are three steps agencies can take to ensure they are helping clients reach the right customers.

1. Add planning staff and managers. Those shops that already have media planning and buying in-house may need to add more resources on the planning side. Those that don't need to seriously consider adding planning staff to better advise clients and guide the strategy and creative processes. And where are the extra dollars coming from to underwrite these increased planning costs? There are only two places: your pockets or your clients'. If it's the latter, make darn sure you are adding incremental value. And another thing to consider: Do you have senior-level managers who can properly guide these new staff members, to ensure their success? If not, consider adding them.

2. Add measurement tools and analytics capabilities. I believe there is a lot of trial and error in trying to get ads viewed today. And not enough measurement tools to determine what works and what's wasted. I hear clients saying they want to pull out of traditional media and shift to all things digital. Before doing so, it's important to make sure the analytics are in place to ensure that ad dollars aren't going into a cyber black hole, nowhere to be seen or clicked.

3. Make sure creative is working with planning. Creating an effective email is different than creating an effective TV spot. Do you have the right talent on your bench to drive sales across a broad range of media? It's risky to assume that the same creative team that works well in one or two media can do so in emerging digital media. My advice is to carefully evaluate your team, and have your creatives work closely with your media planning and account planning teams to inform the work.

The complex hunt to get in front of prized audiences will only become more complicated as new apps launch, outdoor and experiential sponsorship opportunities emerge, and ad-friendly websites expand. Media planning is like tax planning -- the more complex it gets, the more advertisers and their agencies have to enlist added expertise to get it right. Which can make some in our business bleary eyed.