In a Mobile World, Data Is the Future for Ad Agencies

In Order to Survive, Agencies Need to Own Data Integration

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With all the disruptions in the media environment, the very livelihood of ad agencies is at stake.

At an Advertising Week panel last week, Facebook CMO Gary Briggs said that the social network is increasingly turning to its in-house creative shop to save time.

The arrival of radio, TV and the internet have resulted in significant changes in how ad agencies operate. With each new channel, agencies have reinvented themselves in order to address the changing needs of their clients.

In 1992, the agency world received a shock when Coca-Cola turned to talent agency CAA for the company's "Always Coca-Cola" campaign -- although the lion's share of Coca-Cola's advertising today is still handled by traditional agencies.

The migration to mobile is no different than that of other forms of new media, although the speed of change is probably faster than with any of the previous new channels. In fact, mobile is more than "a channel." Mobile devices are the new front doors for most brands and retailers.

Agencies have proven themselves adept at understanding new communications platforms and channels and finding the best, most relevant ways for brands and retailers to engage with their consumers.

As a platform provider that helps marketers acquire mobile users, the changes we're seeing from the leading agencies in the last 18 months have been dramatic.

A year ago, a media planner would ask us to get as many Candy Crush downloads as possible.

Today, that same media planner at a leading agency will request users between the ages of 25-34 who have not previously downloaded the client's app and are willing to spend $10 a month on in-app purchases and are going to engage with the client's app regularly for at least six months.

Leading agencies are increasingly gaining insight into all the publishers -- not just run of network -- and the types of audiences each has. They're understanding purchase value, lifetime value and a broad range of engagement metrics in order to qualify the value of specific customers.

To retain their place in the marketing food chain, agencies need to embrace all this new data, and take charge of being the resident expert on behalf of their clients in order to help them leverage the data. Agencies bring experience working across multiple clients, channels and platforms, as well as the range of publishers and technology partners with highly relevant first-party data. When these sources of first-party data are integrated with marketer data, they enable delivering more value to the brand to connect with high-value consumers.

It's a new world and a huge opportunity for agencies.

Though data has been the new black of advertising since 2009, the data that sophisticated agencies are using to optimize their mobile marketing campaigns in 2015 is multichannel, multidevice data which provides actionable insights to better optimize marketing, according to metrics like lifetime customer value. We've moved beyond third-party data to better CTR or conversion rates on single campaigns toward holistic marketing data derived from a range of internal and external first-party data sources.

Though the data is owned by marketers (and in some cases publishers), brands understand the importance of data for their agency partners, and are increasingly sharing this data with agencies.

And the leading agencies are staffing their teams accordingly with data and business analysts, data scientists and mathematicians who are bringing with them relevant skill sets to build the necessary processes for gleaning the best and most relevant insights for the data on a continuous and near real-time basis.

How important is data to the future of agencies? The great number of media account reviews announced in 2015, including Coca-Cola, P&G, Unilever, General Mills, L'Oréal, Visa and more, has been widely attributed to the search for better applications of data and analytics.

Startups come and go, and some make it big, but agencies (like JWT, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year) have survived and grown even with the "disruptions" of radio, TV, the internet and now mobile. Through an intelligent integration of the various sources of first-party marketer, publisher and tech-vendor data, agencies will continue to survive and thrive in this new media landscape.

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