Competition is always tough amongst ad agencies. And soon it may get even tougher. That's because media companies are moving in on agency territory.
In an article discussing Conde Nast's new creative services offering, AdAge's Brian Steinberg points out that "no one can really say they corner the market on how to make things work in paid search, social media, or mobile marketing." So some media companies are likely to follow Conde Nast's lead in taking advantage of their unique positions to expand their relationships with marketers, and, they hope, their bottom lines.
For Conde Nast, the decision to move into agency territory was a no brainer. Drew Schutte, the company's Chief Revenue Officer, explained to AdAge:
Last year we were doing over 30 custom programs per quarter, and now we're doing 50, and often people were asking us, "I have this other thing I need you to do." And we had to pass on it. So we thought, "Why are we turning them away?"
Other media companies will probably start asking themselves the same question at some point. After all, it's a multi-channel world, and increasingly media companies are having to build a presence in multiple channels if they hope to continue reaching consumers. That means they often have hands-on experience with channels that many agencies can't legitimately claim to have expertise in. So it's natural that a growing number of marketers would be open to working with a media company instead of an agency.
This is especially true in the digital realm. While many big agencies have beefed up their digital capabilities and Steinberg is correct to note that agencies "have a more-pronounced expertise in helping advertisers build identifiable products over a longer period of time", digital moves quickly. A media company's first-hand experience in the digital trenches may make up for any shortcomings elsewhere.
In my opinion, the most positive thing that can emerge from the trend of media companies moving into agency territory is a closer alignment between the interests of the media company and marketers. All too often, the relationship doesn't go much further after ad inventory is exchanged for money. While it's not fair to say that everything is 'wham, bam, thank you ma'am', I think there's a lot to be gained when media companies work more closely with marketers. At the very least, the added competition from savvy media companies should help agencies step up their game, which will benefit marketers no matter who they choose to work with.
On that note, there's no reason this trend should be limited to large media companies. Smaller digital publishers would be wise to take a cue here. They may not take an agency role a la Conde Nast, but smaller publishers can play a big role in making sure that the marketers they sell inventory to are developing campaigns that will be effective. After all, the publishers know their products, audiences, and mediums best. When that knowledge is put to good use, added revenue may just follow.