Christopher Hansen is president of Netmining, a real-time targeting solutions company.
It used to be that a few people inside the media department were in charge of vetting vendors, sometimes by doing their own cursory recon when time permitted but usually by fielding half-hour sales calls of every imaginable variety. The job of evaluating hundreds of sellers and third-party companies, and ultimately executing the handful of small deals that fit the media plan, was relegated to a handful of employees. But the stakes are much higher in this rapidly accelerating era of ad technologies and widespread automation.
Good agencies know this. They speak less often of vendors and more often of partners. The vetting and deal-making is rarely tossed to the ranks of a single department. The agency principals are hands-on, and they recognize the value of having the right ad tech providers as partners involved in their plans because they are focused on future-proofing their agencies for the long haul. The agencies that don’t value their ad tech relationships will be left behind.
If involved at the right stages, your ad tech partners can directly assist in transforming, sustaining and growing your client business. Smart agencies engage prospective companies on their thoughts on scale, growth and capacity to service the agency at various stages. These partnership decisions affect multiple disciplines, but too many agencies fail to involve the right stakeholders in the vetting process, much to their detriment. The ad tech partner consideration is no longer just about servicing the media plan. Agency principals who understand this involve the right minds from client services, media, creative, technology, analytics and operations in developing the road map for ad tech partnerships.
In the complex media ecosystem, ad tech companies recognize that they are part of a small orchestra the agency is conducting. But agencies have to take the initiative to let us know where we fit into the overall strategy and the plan. Far too often, any perceived disconnect is the result of not understanding the objectives, making it difficult to tune and perform. By allowing potential partners to invest in strategic agency plans from the outset, performance likely tunes up earlier.
The best agency and ad tech partnerships work through strategy, planning and performance evaluation as a team. Goals need to be set, questions need to be asked, and reality needs to be checked periodically. No matter where you sit in your respective organizations, you should be thinking about building a sustainable business and taking the longer view. Key to this is getting real about the business relationships that shape, support and fuel our operations. For agencies that want to remain a player in the dynamic media and marketing landscape, this starts with respecting the role of their ad tech partnerships and fighting bad habits to achieve an open and honest environment.
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