Agencies Need To Reshape The Role of the Technologist

By Eric Mayhew, Fluency, President

Agencies have traditionally not recruited for technologists with ad ops and platform skills in the programmatic era.  But now as their clients are making automation a priority, agencies are rethinking their talent pools. A case must be made for agencies to add more staffers with skill sets that will enable them to bridge the chasm between the technical developer community and the ad world.  Against the backdrop of the “Great Resignation”, agencies have the opportunity now to rethink what and with whom they need to move forward.

Digital Advertising is Still Too Labor-Intensive

It’s true that marketing orgs are absolutely adopting varying levels of automation as a part of their larger digital transformation but they are still in the early innings of this game.  There are powerful automation tools in the marketplace but many brands are still kicking the tires on these platforms without making a serious commitment.  Until they really commit, the current misalignment of resources will continue to rob marketers and their agencies of peak operational efficiency and resource allocation that will prevent them from optimizing increasingly complex campaigns at scale.

Agencies have countenanced for years classically unbalanced ratios of 25-35 local  campaigns per each agency ad ops staffer, as an example.  With the large campaign portfolios, your agency could easily require 200+ staff to execute.  And with resources stretched, agencies onboard ad ops head count that aren’t best-in-class in terms of technical prowess.  And because this unwieldy “technical staff” is often operating without proper tooling, the disgruntlement quotient tends to run high with people leaving in search of fulfillment.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

With the aid of powerful automation platforms, built upon a sturdy foundation of rules engines, the head count can be rationalized whereby your agency hires much fewer, albeit more skilled, sophisticated technical staffers.

Selecting the right tool for your brand’s needs will automate the mundane, which tends to be 80% or more of a strategist’s role, which ultimately quintuples capacity.  Ratios safely can go to 100 – 175 campaigns per strategist.  With this optimization of resources, strategists actually get to be strategists and not button-pushers.  This redefined role will get to think in terms of patterns and data sets.  What is the same from account to account, what changes, and how can we simplify those changes to make them easier to execute?  This is the modern digital strategist.  They are advertising architects, building business narratives, refining your brand’s operations, scaling themselves, and impacting your entire portfolio.

These architects would be able to articulate what the approaches and philosophies are that make Agency X different from its peer set.  Once you can articulate your value proposition, you can then get to structuring your organization and operations around it.  By anointing a “tool of record” for your brand, you will be empowered to activate entire portfolios as if that one Architect had manually touched each one.  These tools will help you configure the same decisions you would make situationally, and that makes the architect infinitely more powerful.

Client-Agency Alignment Will Create a Multiplier Effect

There is a clear trend where clients want to evaluate performance on their own terms.  As the savvy advertiser brings in more functions internally, agencies need not be threatened; in fact client in-housing is an opportunity for agencies to fuse a greater connection as an external extension.  This often involves data exchange, agreed upon event tracking, and supporting advertisers in understanding how you advertise on their behalf.  That conversation will ultimately yield deep curiosity from your partners; they are looking to understand more.

This is truly where the high value conversations occur. As advertisers we all believe in the work we do. Showing value can be challenging without someone ready to receive it on the other side.  However, if we can have that strategic conversation, with a system that allows us to learn and refine, we will be able to answer the call better.  When this happens, digital advertising adoption and budgets grow.

In this unprecedented time of staff turnover, we are seeing the challenges of a demand for a large staff.  The cycle time and training for high staff turnover is not only expensive to manage, it also can put your accounts at risk.  You can limit this by making agency tech roles far more valuable, making them more rewarding, and matching the salary to the role.  There is an important opportunity to shift from a traditional marketer to a tech-enabled marketer that can influence more and scale faster.

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