Putting Data at the Heart of the Agency

Posted by Chris Hering, Vertical Marketing Lead for Advertising, Media and Publishing, NetSuite

Advertising agencies operate in a world of shifting currents — one where clients, internal teams, competitors and technology present ever-changing targets.

In fact, change is happening so fast today that there is no single answer — no silver bullet — that agencies can look into in order to keep up. Instead, they need to be working on several fronts. They need to deliver effective, focused campaigns faster than ever. They need to be thinking about dozens of new approaches at once, and use “fail-fast” strategies designed to quickly exploit new opportunities. And they need to work within a shrinking margin of error to keep costs and delays down.

All of this has a lot of implications for the people in charge. But the bottom line overall is that “business as usual” will no longer work. That reality is the focus of a new NetSuite report that explores several emerging strategies for agencies, and looks at how today’s technology is enabling these new approaches.

At heart, the problem is that agencies are often working with fragmented systems, which makes it hard to pull together accurate, timely information about the business. For example, DWA, a global media and marketing agency was working with seven different financial systems at offices around the globe. Not only would it take weeks to close the books, by consolidating spreadsheets, it lacked consistent information and made it difficult to understand and respond quickly to change, or to identify problems in processes or projects that were creating costs and delays.

By replacing those fragmented systems with a cloud-based, centralized enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, agencies can cost-effectively access a wide range of sophisticated tools and capabilities that all work together. Perhaps most importantly, these tools are all drawing on the same consistent data about the business. They are using a “single source of the truth.”

This kind of technology is opening the door to a range of new strategies for running the agency. Key among these is the mandate to “use data-driven insights — not your gut — to manage the business.”

With a centralized system, agencies quickly draw consolidated information from various business functions such as finance, media procurement, forecasting and resourcing. This gives them a 360-degree, real-time view of the business. Armed with that, they can do a better job of identifying new consumer, technology and advertising trends early on. They can work with a better understanding of potential opportunities and of how the agency’s resources fit with those opportunities. And as work is executed, they can monitor delivery, production and business performance in real time — and make midcourse corrections as needed, to keep things on track.

For example, after DWA implemented a unified system with NetSuite it had real-time visibility into global operations and could make informed decisions about how, whether and when to open up new offices. After years of providing clients with deep analytical insights into their marketing efforts, DWA now has the same level of insight into its own operations. In its first year on NetSuite, revenue is up 36 percent at DWA.

Like DWA, with a pool of centralized data, agencies can also take fuller advantage of analytics — a key tool in creating the data-driven agency. For example, they can:

  • Uncover process bottlenecks and cost drivers, and then take steps to remedy those problems.
  • Improve visibility into historical accounts and agency financials to identify trends. This can help reduce costs while providing insights that can be used in developing new pitches and new pricing approaches, such as performance-based pricing.
  • Look ahead and develop predictive insights to support more accurate forecasts and better planning, and to provide a better understanding of future demand, agency capacity and budgets.

Overall, the data-driven agency is in position to reduce friction throughout the business — in everything from managing the workforce to driving innovation — while working with a more accurate and complete view of clients and operations. Ultimately, the agencies can leverage their data to dramatically improve their ability to understand change and respond to it with greater speed and precision.

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