Brain Chatter: Agencies Can Be Whatever They Want To Be

January 25, 2017 Ron Tite, CEO of The Tite Group

When I started The Tite Group, I didn’t actually want to start a content marketing agency. Hell, I didn’t even know what that was.  I simply wrote the line, “Brands have to be media properties and media properties have to be brands". That was the glorious beginning. I then just worked at implementing it. My early instructions to the mirror were, “Just do that and you’ll be right.”

“Brands have to be media properties and media properties have to be brands.”

I thought it was critical for brands (own your audience), important for media properties (extend your winners into alternative spaces and channels), and unique for agencies (be the brain that moves between the two worlds).

The issues in marketing were never a big agency problem or a client problem or a broadcaster / publisher problem. It was the entire ecosystem’s problem. We were interconnected on so many levels. Emerging out of it would require us all to re-examine and redefine the roles we played. Like it or not, we were all in this together.

Now, almost 5 years later, I have a stronger belief in that line than I did the day we started. And it’s why our strategy remains the same.

1. Brands need to be media properties.

As the people who have historically funded all content development through advertising dollars, brands woke up to realize that low costs of production meant their funds weren’t required as often. Pure play ads were decreasing in effectiveness. Mass publications, daily newsprint, and traditional broadcast were losing audiences to an array of other options. Contrary to popular belief, traditional media wasn’t dead. There were just more people seated at the table.

To succeed, brands need to act like a media property. They need to be credible, add value, be entertaining, and build their own audience instead of renting it. We’re proud to have helped AB World Foods, Microsoft, Johnson Insurance, J&J, GoodLife, and many other brands act, create, and distribute like publishers.

2. Media properties have to be brands.

The other side of the equation is the organizations who used to poly-bag ads along with the content they developed. They have just as many challenges with their model as agencies have with theirs. But who’s helping them? We believe we should (so we are). With brand knowledge and a fundamental understanding of what’s driving consumer behaviour, agencies can help media properties create new SKUs from existing power brands, drive engagement beyond the page or channel, and establish brand partnerships to make compelling and credible properties where everyone wins.

Again, our services match our strategy. We’ve worked with Globe and Mail, Blue Ant Media, AOL, and most recently worked on the launch of Workin’ Moms for CBC.

3. Agencies can be whatever they want to be.

Outside of vanity projects, agencies rarely got involved in activities that weren’t specifically tied to traditional fees from brands. They didn’t make stuff for themselves. They have always been consultants who executed on the clients’ behalf. As the ecosystem changes, so must agencies.
Everyone else certainly is.

Rogers has a custom publishing division (they’re an agency).
Broadcasters will pitch “station produced” spots (they’re an agency).
Newspapers will do create native advertising features (they’re an agency).
PR shops have hired Creative Directors (they’re an agency).
Brands are moving content creation in-house (they’re an agency).
Deloitte Digital is executing Deloitte thinking (they’re an agency).
Google and Facebook - media properties who sell ads - are brought into brainstorms (they’re agencies).

On one hand, everyone inside the agency world is saying you can’t make money as an agency anymore. On the other hand, everyone on the outside of the agency world is trying to become one. If you’re an agency, you’re not competing with other agencies for brand dollars. You’re competing against the entire ecosystem.

You’re also partnering with them.

Face it, they’re all wonderfully talented organizations with super smart people who occasionally do what we do. And sometimes, we do what they do. Just be what you want to be and try to be the best and most collaborative partner at the table.

As our friends at AdAge clearly point out, the battle is for custom content:

Who pays for it. Who owns it. Who rents it. Who distributes it. Who monetizes it. And who helps out along the way. 

Luckily, you don’t have to pick a side. But you do have to pick partners.

Agencies and marketers and publishers and broadcasters all need to be be prepared to change their role. We certainly are. Come join us won’t you? Let’s create stuff together.

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