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Analytics and Ad Agencies: Fad or Future?

big-dataUnfortunately, many agencies that don’t get big data analytics are still using old school research models and brand planning techniques to help protect what they are being paid for.

This can range from protecting their “big creative idea” or justifying their tactical social media program. Not only is this prejudiced, this process is often manual, self-serving, provides only a rear-view analysis (not real-time), and is limited in its prediction of what will happen in the future – where marketing invests most of its resources.

Resource is the operative word.

The first resource that needs to be in place is the right technology. The behavior of old school agencies is embedded into the culture, and one has to wonder if the choice of their analytics tools and their in-house analytics capabilities tend to meet the bigger picture client needs, irrespective if they hire you for a particular service.

If I’m a media firm, my best tool is a media analytics tool. If I am a content agency, I use a content analytics tool, and so on. The point solution is just automating the process of research and insight around narrow channels, and interactions within said channel, and it misses the bigger picture of what our client’s hired agencies for in the first place.

So, let’s say someday your agency needs to find an answer to a particular client issue that goes beyond the tactical service you get paid for today. Since you use only analytical tools to support your current service offerings, you are not equipped to leverage these to get the bigger picture answer. Because of their internal analytics limitations, agencies often default to the muscle memory of the past.

So to answer the bigger picture answer, you decide to conduct some form of research study on behalf of your client. Sometimes, even simple research studies can take up to 90 days — maybe even more. While that may seem fairly reasonable for a turnaround, events occur during the study that can have a profound effect on the actual market place dynamics — the stock market crashes, the debt ceiling has hit its limit, there is an increase in consumer confidence, the gas prices increases, an unexpected coup occurs in the Middle East, a tsunami occurs in the Pacific Ocean, or maybe the competition lowers its price. There are an infinite number of variables that affect a person’s willingness to purchase a product at any given moment.

By the time the research is concluded, it may no longer be relevant. And after 90 days waiting for insight that reflects what happened in the past, many C-suite clients will lose confidence and respect, resulting in a loss of opportunity or even worse, revenue.

The second resource that needs to be understood is the organizational structure. The best clients often look to their agency partner as a third-party objective organization that looks at the bigger macro- and micro-economic picture, understands global consumer trends, and provides the ultimate “outside-in” customer perspective. In short, clients want their agencies to provide solutions and answers to issues they can’t discover on their own.

In many ways the best agencies function as consultants who are an extension of client itself. This requires that agencies have a continuous pulse on what is happening and can serve up relevant insight. However, many agencies are structured to provide clients with only the skill sets the client signed up for. If bought your agency for social, then your insight is slanted. If they bought you for media planning, then your insight is slanted. This means you need the right organizational in place to manage the technology and move your agency beyond the traditional state into a future state.

With the right analytics technology, team, and agency partners in place, you can move your agency beyond the now and into the bigger picture. You can uncover new insights in real-time, and you will be able to act on them. Every client has the opportunity to analyze customer and consumers’ intent within seconds to understand their needs, wants, sentiment, desire, and behavior. It’s your agency’s job to facilitate this.

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