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Right housing FTW: every agency review must include an in-house specialist

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Giorgio Travato

After a period of such change and uncertainty it is hardly a surprise that many advertisers are looking at reviewing their media agencies. From company messaging through to spend levels, and targets there is almost nothing that may not need significant adjustment. For many the customer journey will be what has changed the most as behaviour has shifted away from the high street towards online marketplaces. Whilst media reviews were often delayed by the lockdown and uncertainty over remote pitches those doubts and becoming less of a barrier. As such we can expect a large number of agency reviews over the next 12 months.

Clearly we have a bias here, but I think every advertiser should include an in house or right housing specialist on the roster, even if the brand does not want to run media in house (A right housing company looks to move media in house or outsourced depending on the situation and best benefit for the client). The headline reason here is that traditional agencies and suppliers have an inbuilt bias towards running media themselves, buying power is in their DNA and so they will always have a bias towards operating media themselves. In-housing and right housing specialists by contrast have a very different DNA specialising in setting up excellent marketing teams and solving for challenges such as identity and how to best utilise data in a privacy first world. It is to address these advertisers' needs that is why we started Canton in the first place.

A new type of agency review

What has been less well reported, is the form these reviews will take. Many advertisers will be looking for digital transformation and how their agency portfolio works with them on this journey. Also, they will be looking for cost savings and media efficiencies. Whatever the goals, these reviews will be the first to be conducted in a post Covid world that has moved advertising to the next era. Legislation starting in New York, and particularly California, is poised to sweep across the US and join GDPR in a much stronger set of effective global legislation. The tech giants and browser owners have responded to enforce (a version of) that arguably beyond what the legislators could have imagined.

This means that any agency review now must deal with the need for the brand to control its global data and identity policy - an area that the agency groups have actively tried to avoid getting embroiled in. This is before we get to the need for fast execution and deep brand knowledge that is required to excel in social media that also favours in house structures. The large agencies are still arguably the only way to carry out a truly global media strategy with their deep global knowledge and partnerships however it needs to be conducted alongside recognition of the need for and expertise into how to solve for identity, data and execution speed.

A hybrid approach

Many of the most progressive advertisers now have a hybrid approach. Strategic and above the line traditional media support tend to be controlled by large agencies with in-house teams supported by a new type of partner running the marketing vision, data strategy, measurement approach and core technology implementation and ownership. The last mile of execution in media platforms online can then be rationalised between in house and outsource depending on a client's appetite and nimbleness on hiring and access to talent and resources. It is this hybrid mechanic that requires an expert voice to shape the conversation in areas that are not always well considered in media reviews, particularly around data and technology. With identity and gaining user consent for data use is such a vital part of a brands success today and becoming ever more so it is an area that demands more attention.

A modern agency review will need different types of company to fulfill different functions. The large agency networks are still best positioned for activating above the line media successfully across the globe and will need to be a part of reviews for advertisers that have this need. Companies specialising on right housing and in-housing can highlight how resource can best be deployed to deliver against the needs of the future. Furthermore companies with experience in digital strategy and crucially identity (such as Canton) can ensure these vital components are properly considered. Lastly there is as ever the need for great strategic ideas and creatives which may come from a different style of company again. Only by having companies that are designed for these crucial areas can an advertiser hope to come out of the review with the right mix and model for the future.

Times of change are always exciting ones for marketers and today's opportunity and challenges could be the most exciting of all. WIth a new type of agency review for a new era advertisers can build a better tomorrow for their businesses.

Robert Webster, Canton Marketing Solutions

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