Reflection on the evolving advertising practice

While creative agencies are engrossed in wow-ing the market, satisfied with the likes and views gained from the masses, the bedrock of advertising - communications for business to get the marketing message to consumer - is buried in oblivion. In the meantime, global consultancies such as Accenture and Deloitte are showing their ambition in encroaching on the advertising business, stirring up competition among agencies.

How should agencies revolve their current practice in order to evolve, and hence outrun the new rivals?

Given the uprising of digital marketing, the performance of marketing campaigns become scalable and measurable. Agencies are racking their brains to achieve KPIs through innovative means with various marketing stacks. On the other hand, marketers stress their competitor’s actions and follow on their heels, while ignoring the brand essence and its own strategy, as well as consumer behavior. Agencies often pay much attention to creative execution, and neglect the brand strategy. Seemingly, all eyes are on creating the wow effect instead of ensuring that the marketing message is accurately conveyed to the target audience, and offering solutions to clients and customers.

Creativity is of course essential to marketing success, but it is merely a part of the solution that clients need. Clients now want more than creative ideas from agencies. They are looking for someone who can offer them both creative and business strategies. Consultancies are alert to the market needs, favoured by their deep background in business strategy and enterprise technology, and they enrich themselves with converging business models of consulting and creative agencies.

Nevertheless, creative agencies still have a competitive edge to fend off consultancies owing to their culture, flexibility and risk-taking. To respond to the changing market, it’s time for agencies to evolve by investing more in technical talents, from business strategists to creative specialists and digital professionals. These people can build platforms which offer a wide array of marketing and technical services to answer clients' needs - by using consulting to understand the deep-rooted problems that clients might face, and by using creativity to offer solutions and drive sales for the brand.

Look at how AXA benefited from the converging business model. Its car insurance business entered the mainland market and faced keen competition. To get attention from its target audience, a detailed survey was conducted to understand consumer behavior and the brand’s market position. After research and analysis, AXA realised although there was a large group of people that purchased car insurance, they seldom benefited from the insurance plans, since the majority of the time people do not get into car accidents, meaning most of the consumers had never actually made an insurance claim. AXA then innovatively offered rewards for safe road users, which was great news to non-claimants, and called the target audience to action.

To move beyond the conventional role of offering creative campaigns to clients, agencies have to equip themselves with business insights and knowledge. They have to evolve - by combining the creative strategist with the business consultant to get to know the brand and present the brand as a lively person that really communicates with the audience and solves their problems. By converging creative and consulting business models, agencies will be capable of growing in the ever-changing competitive arena.

This article is sponsored by C Media.