Digital Advertising

How Proactivity Can Strengthen the Position of a Media Agency

What you will learn in this article: 

  • Key trends and changes that are affecting the digital media and online advertising landscape
  • The effects of these changes on agencies and the resulting need for them to be more proactive
  • What does ‘proactive’ mean in the world of digital media?
  • How agencies can be more proactive

Few industry segments have experienced as much disruption as online advertising and digital media in recent years. With the dynamic increase in the use of mobile devices and social media, agencies have had their hands full adapting to new technologies, new formats, and constantly evolving user behavior. 

The COVID-19 pandemic added further disruption, but it’s not the only challenge that agencies have faced recently. Google’s decision to phase out the use of third-party cookies on Chrome, the world’s most popular browser, as well as a decline in the average length of CMO tenures, mean that online advertising and digital media agencies cannot afford to be complacent. As clients assess how they can transform and thrive in the ‘new normal’, the role and proactivity of agencies will grow in importance. 

The agencies that proactively seek out new solutions to these challenges will thrive. The ones that don’t might struggle to survive. Read on to learn why proactivity is important for media agencies, and discover the actions you can take to demonstrate your proactivity to clients.


What are some of the top trends affecting the online advertising and digital media landscape?


What are the opportunities for online advertisers and digital media agencies? 

The increase in time spent online and the growing share of e-commerce as a proportion of retail spend indicate that there are more opportunities for brands to reach more customers and more sales to be made. At the same time, there will be more competition for online attention. The need for cut-through creative work and better-targeted ads has never been greater. 

And yet Google’s decision to phase out third-party cookies has significant implications for online advertising and retargeting. The media agencies that are on top of these changes, that can demonstrate the implications, and that are able to propose solutions will have a better chance of thriving in the future. 

With CMOs—the position typically responsible for online ad spend—changing more frequently than at any point in recent memory, previous track records and achievements are likely to count for less. The focus, increasingly, will be on “what have you done for me lately and what are we doing about tomorrow?” Agencies that can demonstrate improving results and a vision for the future will be strongly placed to impress incumbent and incoming CMOs. 

Also, let’s not forget that, amid a continued climate of uncertainty, companies large and small are under increased pressure to transform the way they operate and to make their budgets go further. This pressure is often extended, unofficially or officially (e.g. as KPIs or SLAs in contracts), to vendor and partner ecosystems, including advertising and media agencies. Agencies that act as proactive, results-focused partners—and not reactive service providers—will be better placed to build trust and retain clients.  


The need for digital media agencies to be proactive

The landscape will continue to change. There are more opportunities, more challenges and rising expectations from clients. After all, clients haven’t stood still during these turbulent times—many have accelerated their digital transformation journeys by as much as 3-4 years (McKinsey). Much of this acceleration has been in customer-facing domains, such as e-commerce, MarTech, and customer experience (CX), all of which points to a greater understanding of advertising tech and a greater confidence to find alternative solutions to traditional agency models. 

Our experience at RTB House tells us that businesses of all shapes and sizes have become more proficient and knowledgeable about digital, and are increasingly aware of the potential for digital solutions to support sales and marketing activities. This has manifested itself in end-clients bypassing their traditional online advertising partners and seeking out new solutions and perspectives directly from MarTech companies. 

This combination of fast-paced disruptive change and accelerated digitalization means that online advertising and digital media agencies need to up their game if they are to retain their prized positions as trusted advisors and enablers of success for their clients. 


How can agencies be more proactive? 

There are many ways that online advertising and digital media agencies can be proactive. Here are just a few: 

Position yourself at the forefront of change. Do your research on customer behavior trends, changes to regulations, and technology development. Information is everywhere and your clients will expect you to cut through the clutter and deliver the insight that matters most to them. 

Evaluate your recent results. Given that people are spending more time and money online and are more likely to try new brands, are these trends reflected in the results your clients are achieving? If not, why not? Expectations have changed. Have your results? 

Ask yourself when you last tried something new. Are the media plans and solutions that you are proposing evolving for changing times, or are you sticking with your trusted, tried-and-tested formulas? Client organizations are changing and accelerating their transformation efforts. It’s natural that they expect the same of their partners. 

Try something new. If you haven’t tried something new recently, now is the time to try something new. Start small and, if you generate positive results, be prepared to scale up and across segments. Do this and you become more knowledgeable about what works and what doesn’t, and thus more valuable to your client. Also, trying something new and presenting your findings is a great way to engage in new conversations and a great opportunity to demonstrate that you are on top of the latest trends and keen to share best practices and lessons learned. 

Solve problems before they become problems. The forthcoming phasing out of third-party cookies by Google could be perceived as a problem for some advertisers. But it’s less likely to be a problem if you identify the potential impact, develop a solution, and present it to your client before they have the chance to bring it up. 

Talk to RTB House. We at RTB House have been working with media agencies since 2014. We’ve worked with more than 250 partner agencies and we run more than 4,000 campaigns every month. We’re working closely with Google to prepare for the future, and can provide clients with cookieless-ready user-targeting technology today.


Find out more about RTB House targeting solutions for agencies or get in touch.


(1) “US adults added 1 hour of digital time in 2020” – Insider Intelligence emarketer

(2) “Global e-commerce jumps to $26.7 trillion, fuelled by COVID-19” – UN

(3) “The great consumer shift: Ten charts that show how US shopping behavior is changing” – McKinsey

(4) “CMO tenure slips to just 40 months – the lowest average since 2009” – The Drum

(5) “Google to Stop Selling Ads Based on Your Specific Web Browsing” – WSJ

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