What it Means to be an Expert Today

Art.

Creativity that resonates is the heart of every effective advertising campaign. Whether it’s digital, print, words, tunes, or a single image, strong creative connects brands to people.

It is for this reason that ‘advertising agency’ is synonymous with ‘creative agency’. These are businesses filled with artists of all mediums; from wordsmiths to music producers to graphic designers to videographers. Together, they create the perfect backdrop for a brand.

There are great agencies and there are good agencies. What distinguishes the two? Content. Not just decent content, but striking, compelling, unique content served for the broadest range of clients, regardless of industry. When you consider the brilliance of a ‘Don Draper’ type, it is not his or her deep knowledge of any specific industry or product. Instead, the expertise exists solely in the ability to solve problems and think creatively.

Math and Science.

The introduction of digital advertising forced agencies to broaden their expertise. Almost overnight, it was no longer acceptable to rely entirely on that same great message, snappy creative and tenured relationship with the local radio, print and television reps. Agencies had to learn how to stay competitive across an ever growing list of digital channels, and keep producing compelling content - but more of it and much faster.

In the digital world, ‘competitive’ is a weighted term that considers bidding, budgeting, landing page experience, SEO, PPC, display, social, and oh yea… creative content.

what it takes to be an expert

These terms are now commonplace in much of the agency world, however not too not long ago they forced a major industry evolution. Consider this: If you could travel back in time to the year 2000 and only hire a visionary in the field of data science or creative, who would you pick for your agency? These are two distinctly different individuals with almost opposed skill sets and personality types.

Hiring practices change. Media buying changed. And the list extends across operations, sales, support and client services.

Industry Expertise. Don’t say the “G” word...

Business owners no longer want to partner with agencies who serve a multitude of verticals or industries. Business owners are looking for creative partners who are experts in their respective industries. Not generalists.

This is a huge shift in what it means to be an expert in the agency world, and how it’s valued in the marketplace. “Expertise” that was once considered a competitive and notable strength separating good and great agencies will soon be recognized as a distinct weakness if it is limited to only creative and digital media buying and strategies. Agencies must also be experts in specific industries.

In automotive for example, a General Manager of a dealership does not want to have to explain “absorption rate” to their Advertising Strategist. Similarly, the owner of an HVAC company won’t have confidence in a partner who isn’t inherently sensitive to the seasonality that exists in the space; or the realtor who has to explain the dynamic that exists between the brokerage house and the broker.

The single greatest competitive differentiator between digital marketing companies today is access to relevant data and how that same data is leveraged to propel and re-define strategy on behalf of an industry.

Digital marketing is a game of inches, and great gains are made when relevant data is introduced. Industry-focused agencies amass a great deal of powerful industry-specific data that can be leveraged in aggregate to propel their clients leaps and bounds above any like-business being serviced by a generalist agency.

What’s next? Keep Talking.

Industry-focused agencies should challenge their advertising platform provider for better and more creative ways to leverage this data, and visa versa. The dynamic that exists between digital marketing agencies and advertising platform providers should be rooted in creativity and constant evolution. Together, this partnership can help re-define media buying across entire industries to the betterment of business owners in each vertical.

Similarly, local business owners (SMB) should saddle up with the largest industry-specific digital marketing company in their respective space and ask a lot of questions on how that company is leveraging their data to influence the industry. Wherever that same digital marketing company has a compelling response, the SMB should use their services, because they are the true experts.