A New Breed of Marketer Breeds a New Breed of Agency


Genetic engineering isn’t just a biotech process. It’s happening in marketing. Some marketing agencies are morphing to also be data or technology providers, consulting firms are mutating to incorporate agency services, and tech vendors are transforming to enhance their services offerings.

The genesis of all this genetic reengineering: “The idea it to reverse engineer around the customer,” Glen Hartman, global managing director of digital transformation at Accenture Interactive, told me during a recent conversation on marketing trends. “Management consulting firms and agencies are blending because of our customers’ organizational and process changes, new business models, and business transformation. We’re combining experience design, marketing tech, and data to created a new breed of agency.”

Hartman thinks that consulting firms have the advantage in this new environment of provider overlap because of their heritage in offering services that extend across their customers’ organizations. “A lot of business leaders are talking about customer experience, digital transformation, and merging online and offline experiences,” he said. “We’re perfectly positioned to handle the complexities of the organizational changes required today, including the CMO and CIO coming together. And handling that complexity at scale makes us credible.”

In fact, Hartman said, Accenture Interactive was recently appointed digital agency of record for Celebrity Cruises and L’Occitane, and is handling performance marketing for L’Oréal in South America. “Most holding companies and agencies are buying companies to acquire this breadth of capabilities,” he said.

Reengineered for the future

Indeed, they are. They’re also expanding their capabilities organically. Certainly, industrious agency leaders aren’t going to sit idly by and watch consulting firms’ agency spinoffs pilfer their customers. They’ll evolve, as well. As a result, some agencies are growing tentacles into areas usually reserved for consulting and marketing tech partners, such as strategic consulting, data management, and technology services. Marketing tech companies are doing their share of merging and morphing, as well, with many providers offering sets of services unique enough that apples-to-apples comparisons are nearly impossible.

And therein lies the challenge for marketers. As Elyse Dupré says in the DMNarticle The Battle for Marketers’ Mindshare Intensifies, “this convergence makes choosing a marketing partner more complex than ever before.”

It may seem that this partner reengineering would leave marketers spoiled for choice—there are thousands of providers available to serve them. But those choices aren’t cut and dry; they’re overlapping, thus overwhelming. If a marketer needs digital marketing and content marketing services, for example, does he hire a digital agency and a content marketing agency or a digital agency that specializes in content marketing?

The answer comes back to this adage: Start with the end in mind. Not surprisingly, it’s essential to have a well-defined strategy and clear goals. “Identify core problems and then select the partner that has a proven record of solving them,” Prophet CEO and chairman Michael Dunn told Elyse during his interview for the DMN article. This approach will help marketers select the partners who are right for them, not try to bend their needs and processes to fit the whims of their providers or get drawn in by shiny objects.

And remember: You’ll need to do your share of genetic business reengineering as your customers evolve, so choose partners that will evolve with you.

This post originally ran in the May issue of Direct Marketing News.