I love my job… but I hate my industry

Marketers are too easily swayed by the latest technology and have lost sight of the true value of different channels to specific campaigns. It's time to reset with a focus on strategy and data and a joined-up approach in the meaningful service of client needs.

Mike Fantis, VP Managing Partner, DAC Group, explains why marketers owe it to themselves and their clients to tackle poor practice in the industry and take action to do better.

There are plenty of reasons I love my job. This is a dynamic industry and if, like me, you are on the agency side, you’ll love the roller coaster ride of every day, the chance to interact with a wide range of people and solve problems. And you’ll get a kick out of building your knowledge of different industry verticals.

Client-side marketers, meanwhile, get to know a sector and organisation inside-out, and are rewarded by the achievement of bringing business objectives to life.

But having worked in this sector for (very) nearly two decades, I have seen plenty of behaviours and practices that I loathe creep in. They result in mediocre executions and missed opportunities, and that’s a situation that’s not doing any of us any favours. 

As we face up to the realities of a post-cookie world, I don’t believe our approach as an industry is fit for purpose. If we truly want to meet the needs of our brand clients, now is the perfect time to reset and ask ourselves tough questions about best practice – and perhaps fall in love with marketing a little bit more once more.

Let’s look at some key areas where we could do better. 

Strategy, not tech

Marketing has always been about understanding ways to reach audiences. With an ever-growing set of options, however, many of those agency-side have become enthralled by the ‘next big thing’, without really considering whether it’s right (or wrong) for a client. 

All too often agencies have bamboozled clients into trying out an emerging technology or platform without really giving them the chance to ask critical questions. 

Behind every brief there is always another brief. So, as marketers and strategic thinkers, it’s up to us to put the needs of clients at the heart of all we do. By digging deep we can understand what’s actually right for their audiences and not just be swayed by the latest thing. 

We must never lose sight of the fact that technology shouldn’t overshadow strategy. It’s a means to an end, not the end in itself. It simply isn’t appropriate to use a client’s campaign as a test bed for something new without due consideration. Better to focus on meaningful improvements than FOMO.

Join up or lose out

Marketers have become addicted to the channel and if it drives some form of results, then so what? But hand on heart, is that really the best approach to adding value for clients?

Whether it suits those working in the industry or not, clients are looking for a joined-up view of results. Time and again I hear questions from brands about the correlation of channels. 

Take TV adspend, for example. Clients ask what impact a higher investment in TV will have on their search results. We should be ready to answer them. 

A joined-up approach will become ever-more pressing as we ready ourselves for the demise of cookies. Don’t forget that all the attribution models and reporting practices we’ve used before will become less accurate and less useful. So it’s no wonder clients want to know whether agencies can offer media mix modelling, and I only see that increasing. 

Joining the dots also means not directing clients towards one channel only. Omnichannel as standard would be my suggestion and it’s up to us as an industry to work out how we make this the standard. 

Leveraging data for personalisation

Similarly, customers expect a joined-up experience. Even though brands are sitting on vast amounts of first-party data, we are failing to deliver it to them. There is a huge opportunity to use data effectively for personalisation and to create a bit of love and longer-term customer loyalty. 

Consider email marketing, one of my biggest bugbears. It’s relatively inexpensive as a channel and there are short-term revenue gains to be made. So it makes sense to do an email burst and to hell with the vast majority of recipients who don’t even bother to open the email, right? 

Why, when the experience could be so much better? 

We’ve all had the demoralising experience of buying a new product and then receiving a stream of irrelevant follow-up promotions that make you switch off. Even the biggest brands can fail to capitalise on the data they have and personalise. 

In the last year, for example, I’ve started playing padel (a tennis-like game not to be confused with pickleball or even paddleboarding). As a newbie, I duly bought a padel racquet from a well-known sports brand. Cue generic emails every two or three days with absolutely no reference to the sport I’ve become so enthusiastic about and no promotion of related products – what a missed opportunity. 

It’s very short-sighted. Customer acquisition costs are high and it makes more sense to try to retain a customer than let them slip away. So, why not enter into a dialogue with the customer? Ask them some simple questions to understand them a little more or share some simple tips to make the most of the product they’ve purchased. Imagine how much love you can generate if you truly listen. 

The industry and landscape around us as an industry are changing quickly and we have a responsibility to keep up, to ensure best practice and build relationships. We owe it to our clients – and to ourselves – to make the industry the best it can be. Weeding out bad practices doesn’t come easy, but if we all strive to do better, it might help me (and perhaps you) fall in love with our industry once more. 

Mike Fantis

VP Managing Partner

DAC Group