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The call for participation in Econsultancy's Top 100 Agencies Report is now open.  With 2013 being the year that digital truly goes mainstream in business, and the multitude of predictions on themes to watch along the way, this series of Q&As with marketing heads agency-side will bring analysis and commentary ahead of the report to our blog.

Here Karl Havard, Client Strategy Director at TBG Digital, discusses key digital trends and working with new strategies to deliver clients results.

Marketing is becoming more data-driven and technology-driven. How can agencies - and their clients - best ensure the right balance between creative thinking and scientific marketing?

This is a challenge. The winning agencies will be the ones who can find the right balance. The best creative solutions come from a blend of data sources, which identify the brand and consumer shared values; whilst applying that creative flair and magic to bring this to life. But most importantly, bring it to life in a way that excites people, and delivers against tangible business objectives. It is very easy to get carried away with too much technology and distracted by the many social channels, and end up with something that just doesn't work.

We find it's always best to come back to basics and keep any concept as simple as possible and something that people will participate in. This always stirs up a lot of debate and discussion, within the agency and with clients, but by working inclusively as a collective unit the end results can be amazing. 

Do you find that your staff are spending more time working in-house with your clients?

Yes, definitely. We are seeing the old fashioned 'supplier' mentality disappearing, and we are working with many of our clients as an extension to their internal teams. This partnership approach, which has to be open and transparent, delivers stronger business results. It's regular touch and fosters a more honest two way feedback mechanism, aligning us much more closely with the clients' objectives.

In fact, we're starting to resign some clients who are not open to working with us this way. I think we will start to see more agencies doing this, rather than businesses resigning agencies.

For major projects that require significant investment, have you taken any novel approaches to financing and the ownership of the product (e.g. custom-built technology that can be resold or repurposed)

TBG have for many years operated with an 'innovations budget', if we believe an idea has legs, we'll back it. We have a very strong Tech Team at TBG, who are constantly developing for both client work and for our own technology. We have, and will continue to explore partnerships, which of course have to be mutually beneficial. We've some very exciting things on the horizon.

What are some other hot trends that you are observing among your clients?

The hottest topic is to help clients derive and prove real business value from social. This isn't necessarily social in isolation, it's helping senior execs understand how social can also enhance the return from other more traditional marketing, i.e. how does Twitter make TV work harder with two screen behaviour becoming the norm? We're all over this at TBG, and looking at the business value social plays at every part of the consumer journey.

Interestingly, we don't see social as a marketing extension; social is how a brand or business behaves. It's always important to understand that, when including it within the consumer mix. It also important to understand, as well as all the fluffy metrics which cloud the social landscape, social media can drive sales. You need the right data and measurement methodology to prove it. Our clients are now seeing such proof, and are investing more in this area.

Ryan Sommer

Published 20 February, 2013 by Ryan Sommer

Ryan Sommer is web veteran and recovering expat who contributes to Econsultancy on startups, content marketing and new media. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter, or add him to your circles on Google+

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