This year’s Kingston Smith survey of marketing services companies shows the industry is facing some interesting challenges.
Brexit, brands taking some marketing in-house, controlling overheads, the pace of change and access to great talent were just some of the issues raised in the survey. But overall, the picture is positive – the sector is growing, and is profitable, even if profits for some are squeezed by new demands.
From a personal point of view, it was great to see that the biggest growth overall was among independent agencies. This was, in part, down to M&A activity, but also because of “improved service offerings that capture the changing marketing services landscape.”
All agencies need to embrace this changing landscape. When I first launched The Social Element (then called eModeration) in 2002, social media as we now know it didn’t exist. It’s hard to remember a time before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but back then the biggest challenges for brands dealing with consumers online were moderation and community management.
Having our roots in that landscape placed us well to move into the then-emerging world of social media. The principles of engagement – creating real human connections, driven by real people – transferred perfectly onto new platforms. They still do. Where some agencies have struggled to adapt to engaging directly with consumers, we have always been in those conversations, understanding what drives consumers on social media.
Now, of course, we have state-of-the-art technology to support us, helping brands scale engagement across the world; and to give us the data that lets us analyse consumer behaviour and give brands the insights they need to create deeper connections with their consumers. We even have simulation technology to let brands practise how they communicate.
Agencies evolve by responding to a changing market, driven by changing consumer behaviour, new technologies and platforms, and new priorities for brands.
At the heart of this ability to evolve, of course, is a great team of people – one of the challenges that Kingston Smith identified. None of us know, yet, what a post-Brexit world will look like in terms of access to the best talent in the UK, but those agencies that are truly international will continue to access the best talent in any country for global brands.
We all welcome new challenges. And those of us who can retain our independence and agility will be well placed to meet them, head on.