Agencies under threat as brands take control of CRM

data 2Brand owners are increasingly ditching their reliance on agencies to manage their customer data and CRM strategies – and are also looking to build insight teams – with a major drive to take greater control themselves by bringing the whole process in-house.
That is according to Media 2020: Refresh, a new study by MediaSense, backed by ISBA, which shows that every organisation has been re-organising into a more data-driven and customer-centric business.
Most also recognise that they need to build distinct skillsets within their organisations and continue to bring more specialists into their business, particularly those with data science skills, as they build marketing around the customer.
As brands take more control of their data and strategy, their agencies risk losing their positions as owners of consumer insight. For the first time, clients openly talked about not sharing their data with their agencies, the report notes.
One marketer said: “I do not want an agency telling me what’s working and what’s not working. I want the agency providing me with insights with the small data they see and then I want to use that in conjunction with a much richer view that I have to get a sense of whether it’s been successful or not.”
Over three quarters of respondents (78%) still rate data analytics and data insights as a critical media capability (compared to 67% in 2015) but over half (54%) see data management as an in-house capability (compared with 42% in 2015).
Many brands are also becoming more confident in managing data platforms themselves and are open to having direct relationships with adtech and martech companies. One said: “If you have a data management platform, you need a strategy and you need to own it.”
For many, the complex challenges of building a DMP are causing sleepless nights, but once committed, the report predicts that see few brands will reverse back out.
Similarly, the in-house development of personalised content is an almost universally recognised ambition among marketers, however, the vast majority (80%) believe that significant organisational change is required to deliver it.
To meet the demands of this more data-driven, customer-centric marketing approach, all participants recognise that a more “agile” internal and external operating model is required, with integration becoming an increasingly important expectation.
Agencies and specialists will need to remain nimble as 62% of marketers (up from 58% in 2015) expect to use fewer agencies by 2020, with 67% stating they will be actively looking to re-organise their agency operating model.
When respondents were asked what aspect of the media industry they would like to fix, “transparency” was the most commonly raised topic (by 47%).  When asked what was keeping them awake, however, nearly a quarter (24%) cited “brand safety” as the main cause of concern, versus just 5% who cited “transparency”.
Close behind “brand safety” came measurement, with 23% of marketers citing measurement concerns, despite the report revealing that measurement is a core requirement for modern-day marketing.
Most interviewees felt there had been little or no progress in industry measurement standards since the 2015 report and the majority (70%) believe measurement currencies are no longer fit for purpose.
Graham Brown, co-founder of MediaSense, said: “The findings indicate that the media ecosystem, driven by rapid developments in technology and customer data, is undergoing a profound and sustained shift.  Agility of development and deployment will be key attributes for 2020 operating models: since the media ecosystem has now reached peak complexity, we will start to see greater consolidation, integration and simplification.
“The rate of progress and change however, we believe, will be frustrated by legacy attitudes, systems and processes as well as unfortunately, vested interests.”
ISBA director general Paul Smith added: “This research makes evident our members’ need for greater transparency, safeguards around brand safety and more effective and consistent digital media measurements.  What is clear is the need for recalibration of the relationships brands have with their agencies, with media owners and in particular the big digital/tech platforms.”

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