Mind the Gap

As I've talked over the past year with marketers, agency leaders, holding company executives and ad technology players, I've wondered if we're all actually pulling in the same direction...or if we all even see the same horizon. Specifically, as holding company leaders hold forth about process efficiency, automated audience buying, Wall Street level trading of 'ad futures,' I wonder if those who manage and run brands and marketing budgets obsess about the same things? There's a case to be made that ad agencies are working night and day to solve ad agency problems; that all this math and science are really being put to work to restore the agencies' own broken systems and fractured margins.

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This may seem extreme to some, blasphemous to others. But these questions need to be asked. As publishers and media aggregators look to interpret the needs of the client through the opaque filter of the agency, they just may be getting an inaccurate -- or at least less-than-complete -- picture. I believe there is a major gap between the media agency's dreams and ambitions and those of the brands they serve....a gap that focuses on business outcomes, brand health, marketing/user experience integration and consumer relationship management. Who's minding that gap today? And who will fill it?

I'm not taking a thing away from the need for process reform. More years of high-priced humans wasting countless hours over brain-dead RFPs is a hellish notion. And I'm not even saying that this all may not also be in the client's best interest, at least indirectly. What I am saying is that it's hard to obsess about more than one thing at a time. And in fixating on constantly driving down handling costs, I believe that agency holding companies have taken their eyes off a very important ball. And that ball is now very much in play.

So publishers and media aggregators would be well served to start fixating on this cavernous gap between what agencies are focused on providing and what brands truly value most. Brand centric thinking is no longer an interesting pursuit; it's now a survival strategy.