Marketers have long relied on agency partners for advertising efforts, but in recent years, the degree and level of collaboration occurring between the two entities appears to be expanding. This is particularly true as the discipline of digital marketing gets more complex, requiring more resources and knowledge to execute around tactics like programmatic media buying and user experience design. It also means that agencies are increasingly involved in long-term strategic initiatives like product innovation.
According to research by SoDA, an organization that puts out an annual report on the state of marketing innovation, one sign of the increasing spirit of collaboration between marketers and agencies is the number of retained partner agencies. More than half (52%) of marketers said they partnered with two or three agencies in 2016, a higher rate of collaboration than was seen in either 2014 or 2015.
While there’s a number of reasons client-side marketers turn to agency partners for help, one factor may be a growing skill gap related to more technologically-complex digital marketing techniques. When asked about their most significant digital marketing skill gaps, 61% indicated they had either a “major” or “minor” gap related to UX (user experience), while another 54% mentioned they had a major or minor gap related to programmatic media buying.
Client-side marketers’ need for outside support isn’t just limited to digital marketing knowledge, however. Increasingly, many are also asking agency partners to help them drive long-term strategic initiatives for traditional in-house disciplines like product innovation. In SoDA’s study, 50% of clients relied on agency partners to help them innovate on products and services, higher than any other category of partner.
This new role for agencies reflects a growing shift in the advertising space, driven not only by new opportunities to take advantage of marketing technology but also by its increasing complexity as well.