Agency or algorithm: will all brands go in-house with programmatic?

Will media agencies be shunned by brands for programmatic technology?
Will media agencies be shunned by brands for programmatic technology?

After a couple of days to reflect, re-hydrate and generally recombobulate, Marketing looks at a recurring theme from the ad tech stream of Cannes Lions, whether marketers will shun agencies for technology.

An agency needs to be client supportive and to pull resource out of mundane buying

As with any event in which a large mass of people get together, there will always be a drastic case of Chinese Whispers. Usually at a festival, someone starts spreading the rumour that a believably elder D-list celebrity has passed away, although portable chargers are fast quashing that ritual.

Nonetheless, at Cannes Lions, the ad industry’s (sort of) Glastonbury, there will always be some infectious hyperbole and this year it was all about the future of the agency in the face of advertising technology. A number of big, global brands have put their media agencies under review, some observers claiming that almost 50% of accounts were up for review and others chiming in with the explanation that there’s a rush to take media buying in-house.

Programmatic, with its dashboards and data, offers clients access to information that was traditionally translated by the agencies. Tubemogul, one of the businesses with the ability to provide such a service, brought together a panel to discuss it but it was a recurrent theme throughout.

Many brands will be wondering how this discussion fits into their business, so we’ve broken down the key points.

Do brands still need a media agency?

It seems the answer is… depends. But big, large brands say yes they do need media agencies.

Speaking on the panel from the brand point of view was both Heineken and Mondelez, which both said yes. However, oral brand Hello Products has taken all its programmatic buying in-house via Tubemogul.

Heineken global media director Ron Amram on media agencies:

"The truth is their role is still super critical, they play a tremendous part in our brands’ effectiveness and our ability to scale campaigns and they bring content to our campaigns that makes our advertising more effective. Media agencies from an idea perspective have made our campaigns bigger and have brought big ideas that have brought our product more effectively to market."

What does a marketer want from a modern media agency?

As clients get more clued up on the data, they may well gain direct access to these programmatic platforms but, according to Mondelez, the strategic help is still needed. In the future, agencies will still be necessary but may look entirely different to now from a staffing point of view. Putting more into the technology and algorithms, means an increased strategic advisor role for client needs.

Mondelez’s Bonin Bough, SVP chief media and ecommerce officer

"We need media agencies now more than ever. People currently develop strategies to go into 'black box' reading, we need to ditch those and turn it into algorithms. An agency needs to be client supportive and to pull resource out of mundane buying."

So why all the pitches?

There is simply a greater need for agencies to prove to brands the effectiveness they bring, rather than it being purely about the technology that is disrupting the landscape.

Euan Jarvie, executive director, Carat Global

"The really interesting thing is that it’s not just about technology, it’s demand for accountability to be predicated. A power and shift of generations is happening now. It bodes well for where we are going because the world is going to move more quickly and be grounded in effectiveness."


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