I recently attended the IAB ‘MobileHackDay‘ event sponsored by Celtra, which focused on their tool for creating a rich media mobile advert. The afternoon was spent learning how to use the Celtra interface, inputting our existing assets into it, the end result being an easy to produce HTML 5 flashy mobile ad. It got me thinking about DIY software and the impact these platforms are going to have on the world of Digital Agencies.
At bigmouthmedia the majority of display activity we run for our Display clients still primarily targets personal computers rather than mobile devices, despite the increasingly growing mobile advertising industry. One of the obvious barriers to mobile display activity is the additional time it takes to create the assets for rich mobile ads, the additional size restrictions and the lack of Adobe Flash support. All of this tends to make advertisers think that it is more complicated than it has to be. The most important thing I took away from this event is the fact that making mobile creative can actually be quite a painless and quick process once one knows how to best do so.
It is the growing importance of mobile of course that has led to improvements in creative development tools for the platform but we are entering an age when free and relatively simple to use tools are becoming increasingly abundant. Google has particularly invested within the tools space and it is their focus on lowering the barrier of entry that has really unlocked the long-tail for advertising. Amongst the tools that Google offers are those that empower users to create search and display ads, such as Google’s AdWords and DisplayAdBuilder respectively. Sometimes these tools compete directly with established premium alternatives – Google AdPlanner, for example, has been compared to Comscore and Nielsen, tools that agencies pay thousands of pounds a year for.
Faced with the abundance of free tools it is a fair question to ask whether these could replace the ones we have historically paid money for. But as great as some of these tools are, they are not necessarily a direct substitute for the professional grade equivalents agencies are used to using. As agencies we should definitely encourage clients to check out Google Ad Planner, but we would not be doing our job if we were basing our work solely on results taken from Google’s tools. Ad Planner might help an individual surface a potential site list as a starting point, but effective display campaigns can only really be planned by combining insight across a blend of tools. Typically we take data from a wider set of sources – TGI, Mintel, Forrester and Nielsen. Every tool has its limitations but using multiple tools allow us to come to more highly educated and well founded conclusions.
A logical continuation to this is to touch on the increasing use and existence of DemandSidePlatforms (DSPs) and how many agencies have invested in this technology in order to try and own a greater proportion of the display buying process, acting as networks and therefore benefiting from higher margins. The theory makes sense but in that case, why aren’t advertisers going through to these platforms directly?
But the reality is complex – despite all the criticism leveled at them, networks are good at what they do and it isn’t easy for agencies to just fulfil their role, let alone advertisers themselves.
Despite all the tools available, it is unlikely advertisers are going to take over the role of the agency. But what it does mean is that we need to get smarter at utilising our expertise and making sure that we have all of the tools and the know-how to best service them. Crucially we need to ensure we maintain our focus on driving client value.
For example, many agencies see the display trading space as an opportunity to increase margins by outsourcing operation of the DSP and giving it its own profit line. There is much debate about whether this is a conflict of interest – media agencies are supposed to be an agent after all. The opportunity in a more dynamic and controllable platform like a DSP should be in campaign effectiveness and service, which we charge for, not just emulating a network (complete with its profit motive).
So the increase in tools is unlikely to change the way in which we work any time soon. The reason agencies still exist is because advertisers don’t have the scale of expertise or scope of resource that we as agencies have under one roof, and therefore provide easy access to all these through one point of contact.
But what agencies need to do is focus on ensuring we have the expertise. We need to work hard to keep staff up to date with the latest technologies, and systems. But most importantly we must be proactive and open towards clients, continue to prove our worth and add value, focus on those great ideas that they only get when working with agencies.
RSW/US’ report, AClient’sLookAheadAtAgencies, is a fascinating read and it just emphasized the point - as technologies improve and processes become simpler we need to stay ahead of the curve in order to continue to satisfy existing clients and attract new ones. The report shows us that there is a lot of room for improvement in what we are doing as an industry and it highlights a lack of satisfaction amongst advertisers. But there is a lot of new business potential out there and those of us that focus on service and innovation will continue to do well.
The nature of the work involved in digital media buying and creative production is changing rapidly – real quality still takes time but the best agencies will always be open and honest on what takes time and what can be carried out much more quickly and easily. We need to make clients aware of tools that make us better at what we do, and the fact that using a combination of all these tools will give them better results, and better returns. Dynamic creative tools, rapid production and an increased amount of data for planning and improve our ability to manage campaigns.
Wouldn’t the best way to maintain good relationships with advertisers be to view them less as clients and more as partners? By focusing on fluid two way communication between advertiser and agency and sharing information and know-how we can all focus on delivering the best work possible.