Friend or foe? It’s a question many creative agencies are asking when it comes to new technology. Does new software that improves creative production workflow give in-house creative teams the confidence and bandwidth to replace agencies, or does it make the agency more appealing because it augments their ability to serve the client? Let’s take a look at some ways technology is helping creative agencies adapt to a changing advertising, marketing and PR landscape to try to answer that question.
There has always been some crossover between marketing, public relations and advertising, but the lines between those functional areas have never been blurrier. All of those functions are now, for the most part, carried out on the same channels, and there are a lot of those channels to manage and keep an eye on. Part of the problem is when one thing happens on one channel, it’s not long before it spills over onto another channel (think about the concept of “going viral”).
This is where technology can be used to rein in a PR disaster or help the proliferation of a PR win. Platforms like Tweet Deck can help account executives manage the happenings on all of these channels, but serve only an administrative role. It’s still on the agency and its representative to provide the brains behind the responses and campaigns.
With so many channels in play, agencies need to be able to pull a lot more data from a lot more sources. One advertising campaign may stretch across five or six online mediums, making it a challenge to define the value of that campaign. The metrics must first be collected, then analyzed, then presented in a meaningful manner to the client. Marketing resource management (MRM) systems and CRM can help agencies aggregate data and package it in meaningful bites for the client to chew on. Again, the people element here is critical. The client could use the technology themselves to do all of this, but they may not necessarily have the analytical expertise to derive value and apply it to future campaigns or initiatives as well as your agency is capable of doing.
Creative production or collaboration management programs keep the creative process on track by defining workflows and review processes. In many cases, they even improve an agency’s ability to track project hours and synch up with client billing. This technology allows your team to complete larger projects for more involved campaigns in less time. Once more, the technology is there for the client to use as well, but it doesn’t come with the know-how and experience that should be powering your agency.
So technology: friend or foe?
It depends on your agency’s value proposition. All of these technologies help communication professionals do their job more efficiently, whether they are utilized by in-house corporate teams or outsourced agencies. An agency that’s hoping to survive on an efficiency-based value prop may not be long for the current economic landscape. Anyone can use the technology to get something out the door faster than they could before. In this new landscape, agencies and technology can coexist and even thrive, but it’s up to the agency to show clients where it’s adding value to the technology through experience and expertise in the industry.