By Ben Foster, MP for Digital, originally published in MediaPost.
For years the marketing world has cycled between agencies focusing on full-service delivery to reflect clients wanting a single holistic partner, and the fragmentation of services provided by specialist agencies who are then co-ordinated by clients. The reality is whether it is currently in or out of fashion, having a lead agency who thinks at a macro strategic level across the whole campaign delivery is undoubtedly beneficial, even if you then choose to execute with another supplier.
Ironically as a paid media planning and buying agency at our core, The Kite Factory thinks of paid media last and owned first. We define owned as anything you have editorial control over, e.g., website, organic social, CRM, creative content and even physical stores.
As much as our industry loves to bang on about technology, the reality is we are a people industry. Whether that’s the quality of team members, relationships between stakeholders or understanding target audiences as people with emotions and not just data points. Agency Account Managers’ jobs are pivotal in those three areas, offering entrepreneurial thinking that goes beyond the range of services the agency provides.
Digital paid media planning and buying is in the middle, between creative execution and website experience. Campaign effectiveness is hugely influenced by the quality of the content in ads and the website; in fact performance versus target KPIs is dictated by these elements far more than the media buying. However, simply providing input and feedback based on extensive experience and case studies isn’t actually helpful for clients. Often they are already aware and agree, but budget constraints or deadlines dictate sub-optimal execution.
Often clients have lots of quality raw assets but rarely have the correct formats for all the different digital platforms, or long-form video exists but doesn’t have the right story arc nor follow the best practices for maximum engagement. This is where paid media agencies and teams need to be able to help. You may be sitting there thinking, isn’t that the role of the creative agency? We work with several brilliant creative agencies and their role is crucial and undiminished. The origination of content, creative concepts, communication frameworks, the list goes on, all sit with creative agencies and departments. However, there is a grey area when the overarching content is translated into specific in-platform ad specs often embedded in technology, which is integrated with media buying. This is where campaigns so often fall down as neither party assumes responsibility.
One solution is the client owns their technology stack, which creative and media specialists can plug into, which is ideal if you spend £5m+ per annum, but for smaller operations it may not be as viable. This is why we created Kite Studio for creative versioning. We can take the brilliant creative work undertaken by creative agencies and use that to develop best practice platform assets. We have the client, target audience and media context knowledge to go beyond the cookie-cutter approach offered by the platforms themselves and create assets that work at every level. But it doesn’t stop at initial production. We can use quickly editable templates to create an ongoing test & learn approach to content at low cost to improve engagement rates and prevent the creative from getting tired.
To the other side of media planning and buying is the website, which is vital in creating the perception of your brand and product, an omnipresent shop window. If your site is slow, poor to navigate on a mobile, lack the key information customer needs, or just looks outdated, customers won’t only leave before purchasing; they will remember that negative engagement with your brand for the foreseeable. Investing in constant website enhancement is the best money you can spend, from technical optimisation for site speed to CRO testing on purchase journeys, the smallest incremental gains can have a significant impact as all traffic works harder.
Most clients have internal teams or specialists running site optimisation across pop-ups to reduce page exits and multi-variant testing on landing pages and content reviews. However, for those that don’t, those that have restricted resources or just want our input embedded in the wider marketing strategy, we created Web Studio. Agencies need to ensure clients have all the tools they need to tackle their most significant challenges, such as increasing 1st party data capture to counter the impending demise of the cookie. These tactics can often be implemented in sprints between bigger web development releases. They should also be mindful that the full-funnel and audience-centric approach, often integral to media planning, should also be reflected in the website content strategy.
To conclude, regardless of the sector, target audience or brand positioning, all organisations are seeking to maximise campaign effectiveness. The best way to do this is to think holistically, to plan across every touchpoint and operate with a single agile budget across creative, media and content. Anything you have editorial control over e.g. website, organic social, CRM, creative content and even physical stores.