Evolving the media agency model with Together Connect

Motivated by “unfinished business” in the agency world, Andy Bell, formerly of TRACK, has joined the Together team to realise the media agency’s vision for ‘total media planning’.

It may sound curious to read of a media agency launching a customer experience management (CXM) practice designed to compete with customer agencies, but to the team at award-winning media agency Together it made perfect sense. 

The current Beacons Media Agency of the Year and IAB Digital Agency of the Year has long held a view of where media is heading: valuable media exposures, planned in sequence, to known audiences, using first-party data to inform who is being reached and what is being said, all powered by connected technology. If that sounds a lot like direct marketing, the agency believes that’s because today modern media planning and direct marketing are almost indistinguishable.     

“The right message, in the right moment, to the right person has long been a media agency mantra. But why would that stop across owned media channels, especially when the data and technology we’re using to identify those people and moments is the same?” Kris Hadley, Together Managing Partner explains. “Today, the thinking and infrastructure that goes into good programmatic and good personalised marketing look very similar. By planning and executing them together there are significant effectiveness and efficiency gains to be made. We think this ‘total media planning’ is what the modern media agency needs to be able to deliver.” 

He points to longer-term trends as well as short-term needs driving this change to the media agency model. In the short term, a greater focus on managing ROMI means businesses need to be able to prioritise activity holistically across customer and lead generation programmes. Longer term, Kris notes the depreciation of the cookie and the convergence of marketing technology and advertising technology as key drivers of this change.

 “We know [cookie depreciation] is going to have a significant impact in digital advertising. Good media agencies are, as a result, turning to first-party data. CX agencies are already engaged with first-party data. It’s the fuel that drives the work that those agencies do. Both types of agencies are using the same data, often with the same segmentations, powered by unifying technology like CDPs. Putting those capabilities together at this moment in time just makes complete sense. You get economies of scope and there’s opportunities for new approaches to emerge.”

In Andy Bell, a hugely respected industry leader with over 20 years’ customer strategy experience working with some of New Zealand’s largest brands, the agency found the perfect person to realise this vision.

Andy says he was attracted to the role when he realised he had “unfinished business” in the industry and was curious about what could happen if a media agency and customer experience management (CXM) practice combined.

“The opportunity to integrate the competencies of a CXM agency with a modern, data-driven media agency is one I couldn’t pass up.”

Andy says the traditional separation of these agency disciplines is “well past its use-by date” and he felt that Together was the only agency in New Zealand where this combination could work successfully as Co-Founders Kris Hadley and Rufus Chuter created Together with this future in mind. “They were very clear from the outset that these disciplines needed to come together; the clue’s in the name!”.

Previously when working in iterations of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or CXM agencies, when partnering with media agencies, the two distinct entities could never quite sync up their cultures and worldviews to make the process work.

“It was frustrating for me as someone working in a CXM agency. I think it was also frustrating for the clients because they would often have to bang heads together. Increasingly I think it’ll be a frustration for traditional media agencies too.” Strategic leadership was often a battleground between CXM and media agencies and access to technology and data was frequently divided between the two on arbitrary lines. Often this could be exacerbated by competing agency P&Ls. 

“We don’t have that issue here because we are seamless at the data level, at the strategy level, at the tech level and at the execution level. We’ve got full visibility across all of that and can make genuinely client-centric recommendations.”

The benefits of combining paid and owned media planning were clear theoretically before joining Together, but Andy has been impressed with what it’s meaning in reality for clients.

“Coming from a standalone CXM agency, I now realise I was operating with one hand tied behind my back. The ability to plan and execute customer programmes across all channels, to connect journeys seamlessly, to leverage sophisticated lead generation media triggers across customer channels, it’s been a revelation. I’m now sitting in meetings about leveraging TVNZ’s CDP, or creating custom triggers based on Paid Search bids, it’s made me appreciate how much traditional CXM agencies are missing.”

Kris says the benefits flow both ways. “We’re a firm believer that paid media needs to adopt some of the principles that CXM agencies would hold dear,” he says. That includes thinking about how an exposure adds value to both the brand and the consumer, as well as segmentation, testing and long-term relationship building through media.

Together appears uniquely placed to navigate this new era of media planning. The agency is already a Google Premier Partner as well as Salesforce Marketing Cloud Partner, and was recently also awarded Google Cloud Partner status. This means it can offer market-leading consultancy in the technology and data infrastructure required to deliver on a blended paid/owned media model. 

“We’re really excited to be evolving the definition of media planning and stretching what marketers should expect of a modern media agency. To be truly human-centric in media planning, you have to collapse some of these silos. We have to start moving media thinking from focusing on cost efficient media exposures, to creating valuable experiences that can collapse funnels and meet needs in the moment. It unlocks a wealth of growth opportunities for clients, both through unrealised efficiencies and by making communication more relevant and engaging for the humans it’s intended for. That can only be a good thing, so we’re excited,” concludes Kris. 

Benefits of total media planning

Deliver optimal ROMI by optimising channels to best business returns

Develop genuinely audience-centric media plans

Broaden connection points with current customers for deeper relationships

Optimise cross-channel content journeys for efficiency and effectiveness

Overcome technology, data or operational silos

This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

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