DIY data may be leading to DIY creative

If your marketing department has got a marketing automation solution, have another look at its workflow. Chances are that there is one notable absence – the point at which an agency gets involved to think about the strategy, “challenge the brief” and come up with the big idea for creative.

Even more likely is that a lot more campaigns have been executed since the software was introduced than beforehand and that few – if any – of the marketing team is missing that agency input. One of the things that automation (and online access) does in spades is to demystify activities that used to look complex and hard to do for yourself.

It started with online data and list selection, closely followed by database management and profiling solutions. Data practitioners had grown used to turning to somebody else – in-house IT, outsourced bureau – to crunch the data and come up with profiles, segmentations and selections.

Before you knew it, people were building their own predictive models and successfully applying them to customer databases that were being held and maintained remotely, but were accessible via the desktop. Whether via SaaS or cloud, getting into your data has ceased to be an issue.

That solved one of the big obstacles to data-driven marketing. But the role of the agency has long been a step that few marketers were confident enough to do without. On the basis that if it costs a lot of money, it must be doing a lot of good, the wisdom that marketing is best practiced by external professionals has gone un-challenged.

Until now. With the convergence of data, workflow and customer management processes into enterprise-wide marketing automation solutions, a growing number of clients have started to wonder if they could not cut costs faster by cutting out agencies.

Take one global services provider which last year took out £30 million in costs from its below the line budget. About 40 per cent of that came from sharing and re-using copy, image and creative concepts across the enterprise. Why pay twice for an agency to come up with an idea or create artwork when you have already bought it once?

Like medieval professions, marketing agencies like to claim that what they do can only be done by them behind a veil of secrecy. As the confidence of marketers in their own skills starts to grow from doing much of the work themselves, they are starting to question whether every campaign really needs agency input. In many cases, it turns out that it doesn’t.

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