As human relationships and technology converge at the center of digital media today, it’s vital for agencies and their technology partners to closely collaborate in order to improve advertising outcomes for the brands they work with.
At Quantcast, we’ve had the privilege of working with a multitude of dynamic agencies over the last decade or so, most of which have seen their toughest challenges surface recently as the advertising industry goes through this period of rapid change.
So if partnerships are the future, what are the ingredients for a successful partnership between agencies and their ad tech vendors? We break them down into three elements.
People: the drivers of any good partnership
Ad tech platforms are, at a base level, software programs made up of code. It is the people who represent the platforms who bring out the best in its features. After all, technology is only as good as the humans behind it.
It is often perceived that an ad tech partner is only as valuable as the performance they can drive. However, it can also be said that performance results (e.g., a lower cost per acquisition, higher return on ad spend, etc.) are not really a value. For ad tech providers, that’s simply what you’re being paid to deliver.
Essentially, valuing an ad tech partner solely on the performance results they can bring is like buying a pair of hiking shoes just for being comfortable to wear. When treading through muddy waters, these hiking shoes should also be able to keep your feet dry, prevent you from slipping, and see you through the toughest twists and turns on the road ahead.
Similarly, where ad tech partners can actually add value and differentiate themselves from other providers, is in ways that are not often contractually defined, for example:
- Insights: audience insights form the backbone of any good media planning strategy today. Good ad tech providers should be able to help their agency partners stay informed with insights into their clients’ industries and audiences and also help interpret what certain trends mean so that timely opportunities can be acted upon.
- Education: increasing regulations around consumer privacy, the demise of third-party cookies, and the rise of emerging channels such as connected TV (CTV) are just some of the important topics being discussed in the advertising industry today, and things are likely to continue evolving. An ad tech partner that helps an agency stay ahead of these changes and arms them for proactive discussion will help them maintain close relationships with clients, which can in turn lead to more revenue and retention.
- Reporting: it’s more important than ever for agencies to be able to report on the results of their campaigns, not just to their clients, but also internally to justify business decisions. We often think of ‘reporting’ as just a feature within an ad tech platform, but good reporting is also about ensuring that the measured outcomes presented to the client are helping to build trust. Ask yourself if your ad tech partner is one that will point out if the wrong metrics are being used for certain campaigns, if they can affirm the results you’re seeing, and if they’re willing to put themselves in front of the clients to back you up with complex questions–if so, that’s a relationship worth having.
Process: ties people together
All agency-tech vendor relationships need certain processes in place to define how the working relationship flows and continually creates value.
A strong partnership has well-defined processes in two main areas:
- Understanding how the agency works internally and with clients: only by putting in processes to thoroughly understand how an agency works, and the relationships it has with its clients, can an ad tech partner know where and how to insert themselves in the process to add value. At Quantcast, this discovery exercise includes looking at how our agency partners’ businesses are structured, how teams are split, how planning and activating on campaigns occurs, how an agency delivers on its client expectations, what clients value about a particular agency, how it likes to work with its partners, and more.
- Bespoke internal processes to service both the agency and client: for ad tech providers to ensure optimal service levels, they must also define custom processes internally to support each agency and their unique client relationships. This can involve clearly delegating responsibilities against the best available skill sets, procuring resources needed to service both agency and client efficiently, and checking off a list of tasks or deliverables needed to deliver a seamless experience (including priorities, deadlines, how often work-in-progress meetings should take place, and so on.)
It’s also important to have metrics in place to measure the impact of these processes, so they can be refined as the agency and the vendor partnership evolves. This includes (but is not limited to) checking in at regular intervals to determine if the working relationship is helping the agency:
- Get a higher level of trust and transparency with their clients, and as a result, more revenue in the long term
- Create stronger media strategies that drive better performance
- Have peace of mind meeting KPIs on client campaigns
- Focus more on long-term business impact and strategy, improving operationally and continually learning on the whole
Technology: the tools that facilitate people and their processes to function cohesively
When an agency chooses an ad tech partner, it’s trusting that the company can help improve profitability, reduce manual time spent on campaigns, and produce results for its brand clients by reaching the right audiences online.
In today’s highly evolved media landscape, there are a few key attributes that make a strong partnership between agencies and their ad tech partners when it comes to the actual technology, including:
- Technical capabilities aligned with market needs: agencies must be able to rely on their tech providers to bring solutions that can mitigate the demise of third-party cookies and keep them ahead of increasing regulations around consumer privacy. The Quantcast Platform, for example, uses first-party data only and is already able to show conversions in cookie-less environments (e.g., in Apple’s Safari browser).
- Customized tools: besides being results-oriented, operating with integrity and professionalism, and having clearly defined business and creative processes, an ad tech partner should also be able to adequately support an agency’s digital advertising needs with its tech, including tools like custom reporting, or being able to tailor features that can help strengthen an agency’s relationship with its brand clients.
- Sales and training support: As programmatic advertising technology becomes more widespread, it will become increasingly important for agencies to partner with ad tech partners who can impart new skills and help train their workforce to make it easy for clients to buy digital. Ad tech providers must therefore be people that agencies are comfortable sharing their business needs with, who can easily communicate goals and requirements to benefit their clients’ strategies.
While technology underpins everything in advertising today, the days of simply buying and selling media are quickly coming to an end. Of the three elements mentioned above, people and processes are paramount, and must be considered before technology.
Advertising technology will continue to change, but with the right people and processes in place, agencies can continue to produce amazing results and have a long-term business impact in their partnerships.