How Are Agencies Leading the Way Through Technology's Chaos?

Five Strategies to Put Marketing Tech Where It Belongs -- Connecting to Consumers

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Ask any marketer whether marketing tech is helping him do great work, and you're likely to get an exasperated sigh, with complaints that too much tech is too detached from his day-in-day-out world. The sheer number of mobile, data or analytics ventures leaves a fragmented, fussy, black-box tangle of platforms that is way out of proportion to what any individual or the industry can possibly absorb. This chaos explains a shift by advertisers to agencies that can help them make sense of it all. Here are five strategies that agencies are using to put marketing tech where it belongs -- in the service of helping brands make connections to consumers.

Transform routine "advertising moments" into consumer moments. Technologists and their platforms aren't sensitive to the fine line between what is intrusive and what is a welcomed brand interaction. To know that requires a decidedly human skill that agencies are deploying to great effect as in MRM's Coke campaign out of Romania. Twitter and TV were integrated in real time so people could tweet dinner invitations to others on live TV. Consumers became part of the story.

Adapt for effective agile marketing. This is not a new term, but it has a new twist as the industry wrestles with technology jabberwocky. The rapid execution of agile marketing, while technologically easier to pull off, actually became disruptive to deploy without marketing techniques adapted for the technology. Advertisers were almost always playing catchup and mostly losing.

But new companies are creating uber-platforms that let agencies organize disparate technologies into a singular system. The first of platforms let marketers cross-publish and measure social engagements across social networks. Other companies are creating uber platforms centering on direct marketing and commerce. Now agile marketing has some tech teeth.

Know how to scale with relevancy. We've all experienced it: a "rich media mobile ad" that is totally interruptive. Or a "sponsored story" so generic as to be irrelevant. Too often tech companies sell directly to brands that leave deployment to the tech company. These sorry user experiences usually end up with proportionately sorry results.

Agencies now are mastering the art of relevancy marketing at scale through a creative, integrated approach to traditional media, community marketing, influencer marketing and mobile. Platforms push impressions, but agencies design for a human world.

Reclaim trust as king of the marketing kingdom. For a crazy while, content ran around as if it owned the place. Everyone was so busy paying homage to the new Content King that they forgot that the point of content is to create trust bonds between brands and consumers.

But every marketer knows in his or her heart that it's a losing battle for advertisers to push content when consumers don't want to be interrupted. So now agencies are leading the way with "trust-creation" technologies like hyperlocal marketing platforms. This new sensibility lets everyone get back to the real business of creating trusted connections between consumers and brands.

Celebrate the human element. Brands have bestowed "favored-state" status on tech companies that talk big data or predictive models, leaving agencies technologically out-gunned and bruised in the credibility and billings departments. Yet agencies were always prized for being wicked smart and are reclaiming that territory. This deeply satisfying reality taps into the agency's rare value to help advertisers creatively leverage the human element, where every consumer is a broadcast platform and a communication network. This is a sea change to be applied at a human level -- something no tech platform can ever master.

Three years ago I wondered, in my failed attempt to keep up with Facebook iterations and their usefulness for marketers, whether Facebook had jumped the shark. Three years later, the issues have become exponentially more complicated. But in the complexity, agencies finally are emerging as the arbiters of which marketing ventures will make it and which won't.

Judy Shapiro is CEO and founder of engageSimply and chief brand advisor at CloudLinux. Her blog is TrenchWars.
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