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?

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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

While spe­cial­i­sa­tion is still needed, over­spe­cial­i­sa­tion in the past has led agen­cies to lose sight of the big­ger pic­ture. This gap LV WRGD\ EHLQJ ÀOOHG E\ con­sul­tan­cies

- 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

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