The client dilemma
All agencies, be they advertising, media or PR, are vying for clients’ digital budgets. But are clients in the process of moving on?
Who should brands turn to for their digital needs? It’s a pertinent question in this age of ever-increasing competition. The agency world is crowded. Clients have more options than ever. Consultancies are gaining ground. This is no place for the faint of heart.
As Sunil John, founder and chief executive of Asda’a Burson-marsteller, told Arabad last year: “Everybody is battling to take that lead role and the battle on the digital front is where the real winners and losers will come.”
The criticality of digital is such that even consultancies such as Accenture are eating into the communications sector, with advertising, media, PR and specialist boutique agencies all fighting for clients’ digital budgets. With those budgets increasing every year, the
Access to in-house technology skills and resources allows us to offer seamlessly integrated digital communication solutions - Fadi Sabbagha, Born Interactive’s founder and CEO.
battle is only going to intensify.
In essence there are two divergent views of how digital should be offered to clients. One is that specialisation is key. Two is that a consolidated, integrated agency offering with digital at the core is the answer to clients’ needs, be it advertising, PR or media agency led.
SPECIALISTAION IS KEY
The biggest proponents of specialisation are, of course, boutique digital and social media agencies. Conversely, whereas once specialisation was in fashion with the bigger networks, now integration is, with many agencies folding all disciplines and standalone digital brands into a single mother agency. The idea being that everything is now driven by digital.
It’s a trend that Havas preempted with the creation of its Havas Villages, which help to build creative business partnerships across all disciplines. “Our strategy is to focus first on the point where commercial reality and marketing meet, which is usually at C-suite level,” says Mark Fiddes, executive creative director at Havas Dubai. “If we are to deliver a complete comms solution this is the only approach that makes sense. Competing to deliver only one part of the mix can ultimately be frustrating, particularly if you see that the overall strategy is flawed.”
Meanwhile, agencies such as Triangle and Born Interactive, both based in Beirut, are focussing purely on digital. As a result, the latter’s “access to in-house technology skills and resources allows us to offer seamlessly integrated digital communication solutions”, asserts Fadi Sabbagha, Born Interactive’s founder and CEO.
Which approach is right? Well, that’s the 10 billion dollar question. And one that only clients can really answer.
“In today’s time and age, all partner agencies need to have solid capabilities in the digital space,” says Hamad Malik, head of marketing at bein Media Group. “Creative agencies need to think formats and creative ideas that will work with audiences glued to their digital devices; media agencies needs to think about digital media buying, deep analysis of campaign performance and impact on clients’ KPIS; and social media agencies need to think about how to engage prospects and customers of a brand within the social media space.
“So in most of the cases their remits are different, yet they need to come together for the benefit of their clients. It’s not a case of one agency taking over the work of all others or even taking the lead all the time. A good concept can come from any agency and then others need to play their part in fulfilling the client requirements. Clients need to have the skill to get all the agencies working together harmoniously in order to meet their objectives.”
For Malik, specialisation is alive and well. “Clients with decent marketing budgets need specialisation,” he says. “There is awareness on the client side that the lazy approach of having a single agency do everything is not efficient. Most of the marketing departments now have strategic, creative, media buying and digital professionals inhouse who liaise with the relevant/ multiple agency partners.”
THE NEED FOR CONSOLIDATION
Specialisation is not without its drawbacks, though, as Asad Rehman, Unilever’s director of media and digital transformation for the Middle East and North Africa, explains. It’s the reason why agencies have been busy integrating their units into a single offering.
“While specialisation is still needed, overspecialisation in the
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- Asad Rehman, Unilever’s director of media and digital transformation MENA There is awareness on the client side that the lazy approach of having a single agency do HYHU\WKLQJ LV QRW HIÀFLHQW - Hamad Malik, head of marketing at bein Media Group.
6 COVER STORY