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The Rise of the Tailored Agency: An Evolved Content Support Model

Posted By: SGK September 27, 2017

This blog was contributed by John Lawrence, Director Client Solutions, SGK Europe

Brand marketers, agencies and procurement partners of today are all paying more attention to the rise of the Tailored Agency — a bespoke ecosystem of external agency and in-house competencies arranged to drive connected content.

Marked contrasts to traditional hierarchical strategic to production models, connected content responsibilities are re-defined to ensure an appropriate mix of long cultivating big ideas and speedy content delivery to channel. This shift is being driven by the pressures of cost, a need for greater control, expanded scope, scale and velocity of change.

Mercedes-Benz (Antoni), Kohler (In-house), McDonald’s (We Are Unlimited), Jaguar Land Rover (Hybrid agency/In-house capability) and Redbull (Redbull Creative) are but five major global brand examples of this well-publicised change in approach.

These forward-thinking brands have not only acknowledged but have adapted successfully to this new way of working by striking a key balance between agency and in-house capability. There is a trend of brands approaching supplier selection with an initial in-depth audit of current and future requirements and designing and implementing human resources, technology, processes and agency support models accordingly.

SGK’s Client Solutions team has worked with several multi billion-dollar organisations across media, retail and CPG to achieve just these aims with significant and on-going success against their unique objectives.

Can this global trend service the future?

Today we are observing the initial emergence of a game-changing new agency model and brand relationships that are being driven by consumers and enabled by technology. New Tailored Agencies bear many of the hallmarks of the past full-service agency thinking — a consolidation of service partners and the intention of stronger relationships to solve for the challenges of today and tomorrow.

The true value of an agency supplier in the present and future lies in the ability to provide a dedicated expert service and handle complex, technical tasks across a range of content channels. This is an extension to the marketing capability that requires the agility to change and the capacity to connect and streamline content creation and delivery.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Cost of Marketing Supply Chain Inefficiency

The age of inflexible, swaggering agency hierarchies is at an end with a greater emphasis on empowered, flat and flexible models. There will always be essential underlying competencies, from consumer insights through to production specialists across channels that make up the foundation of any content delivery model.

It is also important to recognize that there isn’t necessarily a best of class content strategy and execution structure unless you build it to your brand’s specific requirements. Each model will require a subset of competencies to be arranged in a bespoke and evolving structure as best fits the brand need and financial reality.

“As a marketing leader, you must build an organization capable of supporting a rapidly evolving set of requirements.” Gartner CMO Survey, 2016

Is this right for you?

It is certain that there is value in the fresh perspective of external agency support in new or traditional formats — providing a wider experience in sector and multi-sector — that brand marketers may not have access to in-house.

Equally, offering clarity and understanding of the brand’s specific and evolving needs prove just as valuable. This requires mutual transparency, intelligent risk taking, long-term thinking, flexibility and a critical focus on a client-centric solution. The challenges faced by modern marketers are better met collectively and proactively, making great teamwork all the more valuable.

Brands are challenged by the need for connected content which has generated complex challenges including:

  • Multiple processes across channels and business lines
  • Inefficient workflows
  • Poor inputs and cumbersome hand-offs
  • De-centralization – reducing prioritization and efficiencies
  • Limited control, poor quality, expensive, inconsistent
  • Duplication • Inappropriate resource (skill, size, availability, etc.)
  • Inability to respond to changing market needs
  • Lack of decision-making data

If this is true to your organization then it is likely there is a proliferation of agency partners that have amplified some, if not all, of these challenges and you are unlikely achieving your desired outcomes.

“The great majority of both agency CEOs (68%) and brand CMOs (72%) agree that current agency structures, processes and pace of delivery are not evolving at the same pace as a brand’s needs.” Creative brief Survey, May 2017

A more traditional hierarchical model will simply add to these challenges and so looking beyond the status quo and shaping your content delivery model will help to achieve your current and future vision. As the content world continues to evolve, you need to be actively thinking about how to adapt to future requirements to ensure you can keep up with the shift.

Setting up for success – how to make the model a team.

The biggest challenge is not agreeing on the principle of a tailored approach but setting up for success. The main risk is defaulting to a supplier-customer model before the ink on the contract has dried.

Taking all stakeholders on the journey is the only true way to achieve success. From establishing a clear State of the Nation for the executive board and gaining approval to execute your desired model, to the diligence and hard work of achieving clear and ongoing engagement with internal and external audiences, which never ends. Leadership vision, involvement, communication and teamwork are fundamental to managing this change successfully.

The aim must be to become one team. The model is just the start, the opportunity is to build it out in a way that makes it yours and differentiates it in the same way your objectives and challenges as a business are unique to you. Nor should it be static. As requirements evolve, we should adapt to sustain success in the same way consumer demands are constantly evolving and require you to adapt.

How are brands set up to deliver content today?

Through our experience, we have identified four core archetypes:

  1. External ‘Power’ Advertising Agencies: Content is created by 1-3 global power advertising agencies that have ‘intimate’ relationships with a network of production agencies.
  2. Portfolio of Agencies: Content is created by a large portfolio of agencies, projects are briefed based on individual marketer relationships. 3
  3. Portfolio of Specialist Agencies: Content is created by a portfolio of specialist agencies and projects are briefed based on required deliverables.
  4. Client Internal Studio: Content is created by an internal client-owned creative and production studio that may utilize a small network on a per-project basis.

The most common trend is that brands are increasingly looking to migrate to a model that delivers higher leveraged and optimized spend providing greater control, brand understanding, evolving specialist skills and consistency across channels. Coupled to this is clarity on creative and production responsibilities to maximize value of partners, driving savings and efficiencies. There is no one best-in-class solution but there is a great opportunity to define what that might be for you today and in the future.

How can we help?

We believe there is an optimal approach to understanding and shaping the way marketing functions operate to drive connected content to achieve business objectives. Getting started is actually quite simple and straightforward — we’ve done it before and hope to do it again with you.

About John Lawrence: John brings 15+ years of experience in brand marketing--both agency and brand side. Operating as a consultant for global, regional and national organizations, he provides Continuous Improvement (CI) projects from consultancy through to implementation across channels. As a member of the SGK Client Solutions Team, John has strategically led initiatives for some of the world’s most prominent brand owners to increase their speed-to-market, reduce costs in the marketing supply chain and better utilize their internal and external resources.